I’m not sure where to start. 3 years. It feels so far away. So much has changed from the big to the small things. The boys are bigger. They are learning so much in school and succeeding beyond what we imagined for them there. Their struggles and behaviors are harder. I know we knew and accepted that adoption would be that way. But I never imagined you not being here with us for it all. Your life ended too soon.
I think about you. Your life. What would you be doing? I think about how you and I were together. Best friends. Teammates in life. A beautiful partnership. The life I was meant to live with you until we were old and gray (Yes, I know I am very gray already. Shh!), that life ended that day.
How would our family would have bonded and grown closer because we were such a new family unit with our 2 young boys? For the 3 of us left behind, our lives took a hard left, derailed, off plan, with so many dominoes falling in the wake of losing you. I know how that has affected me, but how has it affected our boys? I wish I knew their true perspective. I want to crawl in their little minds and see how they’ve processed losing a father we promised them, never expecting that before they even became ours, you would be taken from us. They were 3 and 4 when they lost you and yet still only had so little time with you. Did they even understand what a family was yet? We had only started the adoption process 8 short months before that fateful day. This I do know. The two lives they were destined to live with the two of us united, those two lives ended that day too.
I think about our friends and your coworkers. What it must be like to put the uniform on each day, velcro the vest, mark on duty, after living through a day of hell when the reality of law enforcement not being bullet proof came crashing down they day you fell. One thing I do know is the grieving process is so different for all of us. And we are all unique in the way we do it. But again, I am left thinking about how the way they lived with you on Earth and they way they live now must be different. Those previous lives ended with yours.
I think about my friends, those that supported me. Those that jumped head first into the trenches of grief having no idea what they were getting themselves into. To many of them, you were their friend too. It took so much for them to stand by me, to walk with me, to carry me when needed. They put their grief process on hold to stand strong with me. And for some, we grieved together. Others had to walk away eventually so they could deal with their own demons of grief. Their lives before losing you, ended that day too.
I think about my family: my dad, brother, mom, and others. Your death affected them in so many ways. And in many ways it brought us closer than ever. Mom and I built a relationship that was healthier than ever and I wish I had more time with her too. But she has gone to join you too. I can’t help but wonder about the stress and heartbreak of losing you put on her. To Mom and Dad, you were a son to them. They loved you dearly. Dad has stood so strong for me. And often times, I think he pushes his grief down so he can be a pillar for me. Jeremy, my brother, and I are closer than ever. And I cherish this so much. For all of us, we were reminded of the importance of family and how life is not guaranteed. The way they lived and I did before, died that day too.
I even think about the young man who shot you. What was his life like prior to this? What led him to live the way he did. Reckless, lawless, entitled, misguided. I spoke to him. You would’ve been proud. I told him what he did to us. Who he took from us. Spoke about his cowardice. And declared he would never take anything else from us. That I would see to it that we rose from the ashes and I would tell others of how you lived. I would keep your legacy alive. And when I did this, I couldn’t help but feel sadness for him too. Please don’t judge me for this. Hear me out. I am an empathetic women with grace to give. I forgave him that day. Not for him, but for me. When I chose to forgive him, I was able to let go of the anger and bitterness towards him I had been holding onto for over a year. Jake, I know you wouldn’t want that burden to weigh me down. He lost his life that day too. All of his opportunities where forfeited and he will live the rest of his life in prison.
Jake, you never knew how truly special you were. And I am here to say, “I told you so.” Because, yet again, I am right. You meant so so so much to so many. And I have seen it constantly in the last 3 years. I continue to hear stories about you. How you touched lived. What you meant to others. It is truly remarkable.
I want you to know that I heard you. I know you wanted me to keep living if I ever lost you. And I have. Each day I put one foot forward no matter how dang hard it is. I have built a life for us. While not only one life was lost that day, I want you to know that many new lives have been born. Reborn in light of you. Our boys, our friends, your coworkers, family, me and so many others have gone on for 1,095 days living life the best we can in your spirit.
Not only one life was lost that day. For many of us, our past selves died alongside you. And I pray we continue to live better with what we have learned from you.
I love you, Jake. You are forever in my heart and in the hearts of many.
Deputy Jacob Pickett, EOW 3/5/2018