Two weeks passed but the pain showed no signs of fading. It greeted us every morning, every shift, every heartbeat. Somehow, life continued: Nathan got a new partner; a kid named Emmett Snow who was as crazy as Craig but as reserved and naive as me. Kudos to Nathan; he tried hard to be welcoming and a good partner to the rookie but we missed our girl. There were some female officers graduating from the academy and Mark was trying to convince the brass to hire one, maybe some estrogen would help, but no matter what, no one could replace Tessa. No one.
We framed her letter and hung it beside her police photo. Whenever we missed her more than usual, we would read her words. They reminded us of her strength and it gave us courage.
We had her funeral two days ago. We would have had it sooner but CPS was wanting a police funeral, but others disagreed. She may not have had a line of duty death but we were treating it as such: she deserved nothing less. We won. It took place in the Saddledome Arena and we filled it. Police officers from all over Canada attended, even two from New York came; people she met at a conference years ago. Jones Martins attended after hearing what a fan she was. Tess would have really liked that; the only time I saw her get all girly was when she had met Jones Martins. A lot of the public came wanting to pay their respects to such a warrior.
There was no dry eye in the stadium as Nathan, Mark, and Chief shared stories of her. Nathan spoke of his favourite moments during patrol, her subtle acts of courage, and her amazing personality. Mark told about when they first hired her; how nervous, excited, and gung-ho she was. She sounded as naive as I was when I first joined but then life took a toll on her. Chief talked about her courage and her overall police career. With no next of kin, Chief presented us with her flag- her family in blue. It now sits with her photo and her letter. If our station ever ignited in flames those three items would be the things we would save- screw the reports and shit.
After the funeral, we all got together at the Slicks and drank in Tessa’s memory; it was bittersweet knowing this would be the last drink in her presence. Jones Martins came along and admitted he remembered meeting Tess even after all these years.
“I honestly don’t remember much,” he muttered sipping at his beer, “but I remember her eyes: they were the most beautiful colour of green I had ever seen. They were nerve-racking and...”
“Knowledgeable?” Craig suggested causing Jones’ eyes to widen as he agreed. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to think so. “Yeah, she had that effect on people.”
I wasn’t entirely sure I believed Jones; he could have just been saying that for our sakes but simultaneously, Tess wasn’t someone you would easily forget.
Jones then revealed that he had been traded to Tess’ least favourite team in the NHL, the Boston Bruins. And I don’t mean she sneered at them or booed when they won. No, she kicked Mark out of his own house after he put a Bruins' jersey on. Everyone knew not to wear Bruins swag at the station, or fear the consequences.
“Probably a good thing Tess wasn’t here for that,” Nathan joked grimly. We all chuckled but Jones who gave us a mortified look. What? We’re cops; we have warped senses of humour and crack jokes at the direst of circumstances. However, I knew Tessa would be laughing in Heaven agreeing wholeheartedly.
A thing I noticed about death: the time leading up to the funeral is when you are expected to grieve, to cry, to curse at the sky, but as soon as your loved one is buried six feet in the dirt you are expected to move on. This is certainly harder said than done.
We all bear the weight of our failure and are constantly reminded by the signs and signals we didn’t notice. I doubt we will ever recover from this loss; we’ll bounce back but our light, our joy will have dimmed from the sun to the moon. On special dates, birthdays, anniversaries, the Stanley Cup playoffs, we toast to her and visit her gravesite. I know Nathan takes his family there and tells his kids what an amazing woman Aunty Tessa was. We all hold our girl somewhere special in our hearts. Especially me.
The day after Tessa’s funeral, Claire gave birth:
After hours holding Claire’s hand, listening to her pain filled screams, enduring her death threats, I finally stared at the little life we created. Joy, pure, innocent joy filled my entire being; I hadn’t felt this happy since...
The baby had blonde hair just like Claire and had my almond eyes that stared knowingly at me despite being mere minutes old. The baby was small and had to fight for its’ young life; there was a problem with the birth that almost cost both my wife and my child, but they both fought through it. The baby’s face was red as it breathed its’ first few breaths staring at the world.
“What should we name her?” Claire asked breathlessly, her fatigue and brush with death forgotten, although exhaustion pulled at her eyes. Her hair stuck to her red, sweaty face but she never looked better. Her blue eyes glittered like sapphires as she passed our child in my arms.
“Tessa,” I answered feeling tears prickle my eyes, but tears of joy and the pain of letting go and moving on.
“Tessa; it’s perfect,” Claire agreed as baby Tess laughed reaching a tiny finger and stroking her mother’s cheek, an act that pierced my heart. I had just met this tiny, little life yet I loved her so much.
“Hey, how’s everyone?” Mark asked poking his head in the room. He was quickly followed by the rest of the guys- Emmett included.
“Sarge, met the newest edition of our family: meet Tessa Brielle Parker.”