Thursday, 22 March 2012

Life after Mick, life after Lex, regrets and forgiveness

My friend died. He was killed in what is sometimes referred to, in a quasi-heroic manner, as`the line of duty`. If he'd keeled over and croaked behind his desk at his computer screen it wouldn't be referred to as `in the line of duty` even if he was at work. He was fit, healthy, hilarious, a half decent drummer, a quaffer of fine ales, a good rugby player and a bit of a handful on a night out in the West End. He was a Bow Street policeman and he was killed doing his duty. Do I miss him? Yes, in that he was denied the right to a long life, but then so are lots of people. We wouldn't have kept in regular touch, for our lives were different outside of work. We may have served together again, but we never had the chance to, as somebody killed him. We would probably have gone to the occasional reunion and laughed at his fat belly, our excess of grey hair, or lack of any hair. I haven't got a fat belly, never had, still exercise, still keep in shape. Perhaps he would have too. I think he would have.  Do I think about him? Yes, but not every day, not every week, I just can't predict when his grin, or the echo of his voice will pop into my thoughts. I was hit bloody hard when he died. Could have been me. A few months earlier it nearly was, in exactly similar circumstances, but I'm here and he's gone. His killers served less than 4 years in prison. Will I get over it?  That question is far too vague. Get over what, exactly? Only time will tell.

PC Michael Anthony WHITING QPM, killed after clinging to a car which had driven off after he had stopped and questioned the driver.       May 5th 1973

On a different tack, but still sailing into the winds of bereavement, I was thinking about the time, many moons ago, when my doctor's wife took her own life. A troubled soul, no doubt, to do something like that. She took prescribed medication along with three quarters of a bottle of Scotch whiskey, a blended variety although I can't remember the brand, but I do remember that she drank it from a heavy  cut glass whiskey tumbler, for it is in my minds eye as I type these words.

I remember, vividly, one part the transcript of the Coroner's report that my colleague prepared; it was an extract from the emergency `999` call made by one of her daughters, aged about seven. Her older sister, aged about nine, was desparately doing CPR as her sibling spoke to ambulance control. Good kids, well trained by Daddy for such things. They had just got off the school bus and walked into the house to find their mother, dead, on the lounge carpet. "Can you help us. I think my Mummy has died".

Some time later I was given the job of returning that bottle of scotch and the glass to the bereaved doctor, my doctor, in my village. My sergeant said it was cluttering up `crime property` and must be returned, against a signature. The glass and bottle sat in my office drawer for weeks. I got several memo's from my sergeant and several verbal orders for the register to be completed and to return the property against a receipt, a signed receipt. I knew that I would be re-opening an awful wound, but my sergeant was muttering disciplinary action, neglect of duty and other threats. I wound myself up and headed off, making it the last call of the day, after all, he was a near neighbour a mere half mile from the village police house, my office, my home.

Deep breath, long walk up a short drive, knock on door. Greetings, brief mutual exchange, explanation, open the bag, a peep inside, the change of his expression, a pain in my heart, business-like response, `Yes, of course` a quick scribble, `there you are... thanks H... bye` door closed.

I agonised beforehand and I agonised afterwards. Why isn't there an easier way of doing this? Should I just forge his signature and spare him the pain, no one would know, he'd never want this stuff back anyway. I should've just phoned him, offered to dump the stuff and get a signature without having to hand it over. Stupid stupid stupid. Then I considered the alternatives; awkward investigative questions asked months later,  neglect of duty reports, a discipline hearing, a career blighted or worse, he may have actually wanted the glass. Allegations of theft would follow and criminal prosecution. I did my duty and hated it.

For nearly twenty years after I would be jabbed by that doorstep encounter at random times. I'd be sitting down watching a film at home and suddenly the thoughts of that afternoon would bust it's way out of my mental filing system and into my consiousness and I would say "Oh no" out loud or under my breath. Until one afternoon at police HQ, when I'd been sitting on a selection board and had taken a break for tea. I found myself in the canteen and padre, the Reverend Mike, came over and joined me. Greetings, mutual exchange, small talk, then the subject changed and I thought of my doctor. I told padre my story. Without changing tone he said that if I could spare him two minutes he'd cure me.
 `OK Rev, Go for it.` 

"Look at you now, a senior officer with twenty five or more years experience in all sorts of ways, blaming a poor kid with a mere six years under his belt and faced with something he hadn't encountered before and with so much more to learn before he gets to where you are now. Why are you blaming that person. That person wasn't you, he was a different person. Don't blame yourself for something someone else did. Give him a break, forgive him his lack of experience.". Cured. Oh wise padre.

Someday I'll forgive myself for everything else that gets to me. But not today. Not just yet.


sparkflash said...

Perhaps its a Sergeant, who should have realised just what a hard, thankless task you'd been given and taken you aside for a quiet chat about ways to go about it, but didn't, that needs a dash of forgiveness.
It could be argued that you learned something from his inaction - but I'm not sure that you needed to - certainly not at the expense of others.

I recall walking home from the pub one night, bumping into someone I previously went to school with. She seemed a bit morose as she gave me a hello and a hug.
"Cheer up Lisa, it might never happen!" I glibly spouted.
Her mum had just died of cancer.

"Cheer up Lisa, it might never happen!" That was the first thought I would have, each morning, for many, many weeks.

And what, exactly, did I learn from that?

Advokaat said...

Written from the heart...well done.

And, we all learn as we grow older and gain experience which comes from having none in the first place.

Marcus Erroneous said...

Nice H, it's you again, something I think Lex would have enjoyed, more so were he not playing a bit part in it. A good read.

There are endeavors where we bump up against situations that most folk just don't have to deal with. A more perceptive Sergeant might have recognized your predicament and offered some advice. But not all are outstanding, which is why the ones that are stand out so much during our lives.

The Padre was right, we are what we are and we make the best decisions that we can, given the information and experience that we have at the time. Later, we know better, but that is later, too late for the "now" that we lived in.

When you're a Type A personality and constantly striving to do your best, you revisit things with an eye to improving your game. The hard part is to forgive yourself later, harder when you're aware of the personal issues of others that are or were involved. Generally, were it just ourselves involved, we move on though when we do remember, we'll suddenly give a quick snort, startling others around us, at our inexperience. It's those others that make it more difficult for us to move on. Yet, in reflection, if we can examine it from all angles and admit that we did what we could, then we can and should forgive ourselves, thankful that it was us rather than some hapless git without a care.

Life isn't fair, we just do what we can as we go along and leave the rest in the hands of the Lord.


Old AF Sarge said...

Well written HD. Sometimes life comes at you hard. On my way to work on Mondays I pass by a small memorial to a Massachusetts state trooper who lost his life "in the line of duty". He'd stopped to assist a motorist in distress and was hit and killed by another driver who was just not paying attention. My hat is always off to those who try so hard to keep us safe and sometimes pay the ultimate price. Stay strong brother!

Kris, in New England said...

I echo others here HD, very well done. In all ways; yes you did your duty and at the time it was the best you could do. Would you do it differently now? Of course. That's called experience and you can only use what you have in the moment it is needed.

Quartermaster said...

Tough duty, but necessary, alas.

Looks like several Lexians have bounced over to your place. I've seen several at other places as we slowly disperse throughout the Blogosphere.

Hogdayafternoon said...

I appreciate the comments. I hope the Lexians re-group in their own club house somewhere, rather than fan out. I think we need our own place rather than going solo, but time will tell.

Justthisguy said...

You bastard.

You have just made me weep again.

Mayhap I'm just turning into some kind of sissy-softy in my old age, or things really are getting more criminally-crazy everywhere, and I should just suck it up and buy more ammo.

Hogdayafternoon said...

Just This Guy:

Just for you old chum'

Blue Eyes said...

"Get over what, exactly?"

This is a question I ask myself when I am utterly pissed off about something. What am I pissed off about, exactly? Oh, it's gone.

"They had just got off the school bus and walked into the house to find their mother, dead, on the lounge carpet. "Can you help us. I think my Mummy has died"."

Possible. Worst. Thing. Ever.

I actually had a lump in my throat imagining that.

Blue Eyes said...

"Cheer up Lisa, it might never happen!"

We've all done that.

Reminds me of David Brent though: So the terrible news is that we're merging with Swindon office and half of you are to be made redundant. Luckily I am staying to head up the new office. Ugh.

Quartermaster said...

I think many Lexians are trying to regroup over on Facebook. Alas, that will be without me. I won't give my personal info to those illegitimate sons and I won't tell lies to register.

Eventually as the memories take soft edges the group will disperse anyway. I will remember Lex with fondness, as, I think, the rest will, but such things die after awhile regardless.

Hogdayafternoon said...

I popped up to periscope depth over there. So far OK, but I dumped it years ago. Only came on board then to keep in touch with my daughters.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

The poet has problems with all the incoming information over the radios. He jut needs a few weeks of doing it, and he'll be up to speed.

I was hoping they would turn the NightSun on. Helo gets to play God: Let There Be Light, and there was Light, and It was Good! Man, those are good lights, I want a set for takedowns.

That was a most enjoyable half hour, Hoggy, I will try and download it for future reference. The Night Shift is when all the fun is had.