I had to work Sunday, I hate working weekends, Sundays are supposed to be family time: church and museums and brunches and the pool and monster games in the basement.
But that is part of being a public servant, sometimes you work Sundays. So around 4pm I got in my car and drove to Lafayette to talk to some people about education policy. The event ran late so I was late to meet my boys and wife for our special dinner and a movie to see the new Disney movie “Brave,” a story about a young woman unafraid to stare down evil to make her own way in the world and to protect her own family. There was a big mean bear in the movie (even though the mom was turned into a bear to remind us not all bears are mean). My son got scared and crawled into my lap a couple times and snuggled his face into my chest.
After that, I came home and put my boys in bed. When I tucked Emmet in, I lay down next to him in his tiny bed, he put both his arms around my neck in the dark, laid his head upon my chest and said, “Daddy I want you to stay here forever.” I wanted to, too. I almost cried, but instead I held him until he fell asleep and then walked out to see my wife.
She was crying; but about something else. About 4 o’clock today, another public servant left her family and drove to work, the same work she had done every Sunday for 7 years. She probably said goodbye to her two kids and said she’d be home to kiss them both goodnight. While my little Emmet was hiding from the scary bear in the movie, this public servant was running into a real life den of bears to make sure everybody else was safe, and while she was looking out for my friends and neighbors trying to enjoy some jazz in the park, they shot her in the head.
While I lay in the bed cradling my sons head, she lay on a gurney in Denver General with a team of doctors cradling her head.
And I thought of her little kids, and the nights that they’re afraid, and the nights they want their Mommy to stay with them forever, and I thought of them being asleep right now, and of the moment when they wake up tomorrow morning waiting for mom to walk in to their bedroom, and when their sleepy eyes creep open and they ask if today is a school day or if they can have some milk, or if Mommy’s making breakfast. Someone else will have to be there to hold their little heads and tell them that Mommy isn’t making breakfast, not now or ever again, that she can’t make it to their next soccer game or band practice, that the next time they skin their knee or wake up with a nightmare, Mommy will never be there. She won’t be there to console them through their first broken heart, or to help them straighten their first tie or fasten their first corsage, not to help them pick a college or send them their first care package of cookies. She won’t be there to do a load of laundry over Christmas break, or for the first dance at their wedding, or to be the first teacher when they hold their own little baby in his hands and wonder how to keep this little thing safe from a big and dangerous world.
I am proud to call myself a public servant, but after today that feels like saying that both Shakespeare and I are writers: some give their time and some give their lives.
I will be waiting in my boys’ rooms tomorrow morning when they wake up, waiting to tell them that it is a school day, and that I brought them some milk, and that Mommy is making breakfast, and that I will be at their next soccer game, and that in real life we don’t have to be afraid of big bad bears because some public servants are willing to give their lives to make sure I can “stay here forever” on the nights when my kids need me most.