Ten years ago today, another local family was in mourning for their son, husband & father. When I went to the hospital for my six-month appointment on Wednesday, August 5, 1998, the news was full of stories about a young Toronto policeman who had been brutally murdered the night before. Just 32 years old, father of a 4-year-old daughter & expecting a son in September, he was stabbed by two homeless, drug-addicted women while on an undercover stakeout (as it turned out, while his partner was in a bar, drinking when he should have been on the job).
The story was all over the news for the next several days (& weeks, & months, as the trial played out) and, as I wrestled with my own grief over the loss of my baby, I couldn't help but feel keenly for another family whose own simultaneous tragedy was splashed prominently all over the media for all to see. Here I was, a mother without my baby; here was a woman without a husband, carrying a baby (approximately the same age my daughter would have been) who would never know his father.
The funeral was held on Monday, August 10, 1998 -- a grey, humid, clammy, rainy day -- in the suburb where I live. It has one of the larger churches in the area, which was needed to accommodate the thousands of police officers who flew in from all over North America -- one of North America's largest-ever police funerals. Even so, most of them wound up standing outside in the adjacent schoolyard. The service was broadcast on local television.
The following day, dh, my mother & I went to a local funeral home to make arrangements to have our daughter cremated, and for a memorial service. The funeral home sent us to the cemetery a few miles up the road to pick out a plot. The salesman mentioned they had handled their biggest funeral ever the previous day. "The policeman's funeral?" I said & he nodded.
I'm not sure how we found it -- I guess the freshly dug earth was a clue -- but we found the policeman's grave, shortly after our daughter's funeral. It's not very far from where she is, and a headstone appeared shortly afterward that is visible from the road. There is a granite bench there, inscribed with the names of his two children, & always an abundance of flowers & golf balls left there by family & friends.
In another coincidence, the park across the street from the community centre where our pregnancy loss support group meets -- in the neighbourhood where he grew up & lived -- is named after him. I've told this story to our support group clients over the years (most of whom also live in the area), & several of them have told me they knew him.
Every August 7th, when I take pink roses to Katie's niche, I draw one flower out of the bouquet & take it over to the policeman's grave. Dh thinks I shouldn't, that the family probably wonders where it's coming from -- but I feel compelled to recognize this family's loss in some way, tied in my memory so closely to my own loss.
His daughter would be a teenager now; his son (like my daughter) would be coming up to his 10th birthday this fall. As I mark my own 10th "anniversary" of grief this week, I wonder how they are doing. I have not forgotten.