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NYPD PBA, With Gratitude

PBA President, Patrick Lynch addressing media

PBA President Patrick Lynch addresses media.

December 1977, NYPD PBA Holiday Party

It was our first time, just past the first anniversary of Brian’s death. We were invited to the party where I thought we would meet other families, talk about raising our children alone, trade phone numbers. But the boys and I sat at a table by ourselves while other widows milled about. They were mostly my mother’s age. They stopped by to say hello and make introductions and then moved on to quiet conversations.

Go to the holiday party, my mother urged. Let the boys have some fun. But we weren’t having fun. In fact, it felt like we were reliving the funeral, with uniforms and bagpipes and somber faces. The loneliness felt crushing.

We left early. Keith with a Monopoly game, Chris with roller skates too big for a three-year-old. On the drive home I couldn’t stop the tears, which fell silently onto the steering wheel. There were no arguments in the back seat about who would sit where, no kicking, none of the usual play-housing from two little boys.

I didn’t go again for five years, and only then because Keith had seen coverage of the party on TV where kids wheeled out bicycles and big wheels. This time I took my mother with me for insurance, for someone to talk to. But this time the room was filled with children, the atmosphere festive. Diane was first to say hello, her daughters first to initiate play, and soon the boys were engulfed in a crowd of kids who were just like them, whose fathers were shot or stabbed because they wore a blue uniform.

Fast forward to 2017, to a different world, a different PBA, run by President Patrick Lynch, a man who recognized the need for police widows to come together and form friendships reserved for those who have experienced the catastrophic. It shows in their eyes, the tragedy that is put aside for the day, but always there at the fringes, no matter how many years have gone by. Pat takes the microphone and thanks us for our sacrifice, walks around and kisses each one of us, holds our hand and asks do we need anything.

I don’t even sit at a table at these parties, so many there to greet and catch up with. Sometimes Keith comes with me to reconnect with the friends he made when he most needed a friend, the young men who are now husbands and fathers, who realize what it meant to stand together to share sadness.

I still look for Diane and her girls, and the hundred or so women with whom I have bonded over the years, women who make me feel warm and teary. It took a man like Pat Lynch to see what was missing and to fill that void, to give us something to remember and to feel grateful to belong.

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