Tomorrow I turn 35.
In some ways, it seems like ages ago that we were talking about this milestone birthday, and in other ways, it feels like yesterday. Our last birthday together was when we turned 30.
You told me our 30s were going to be full of adventure. I thought when you said that you meant it was going to be full of adventure together. As we know, only a couple of months after you wrote that, I learned my assumptions were wrong.
Not long after that birthday I vividly remember sitting at the table with lists upon lists and you with the calculator. You always seemed to have that calculator out all the time crunching numbers. You always wanted to make sure we were going to be okay, and if there were even a small chance that we might not be, you would be on the phone picking up an extra shift. Whether it was with CFD or one of your buddies’ shops, you were on it.
This was right around the time we decided I was going to go back to school. I remember having these conversations, and although they were scary, we knew it was the right move. You knew I loved my job as a police officer and that I genuinely cared for the people I encountered daily. I brought it home regularly, and the one thing that always came up was my desire to do more.
At times, especially times of frustration, I thought I hated policing. The reality though, was that I didn’t hate it, it just wasn’t what I was meant to be doing so I felt stuck. Policing is a thankless job, and those that do it for the right reasons, and who step into that uniform every day for the greater good deserve more respect and admiration than they will ever receive.
I see all of you and when I started down this new career path my sergeant said to me, “don’t forget about the rest of us.”
I promise you, I won’t and there are things in the works already.
The job came with times of satisfaction, moments of pure pride, fears, terror, sadness, heartbreak, frustrations, tragedy, ridiculous fun, so many “you can’t make this *#$& up” moments, loads of humour, and if you are lucky, a camaraderie with people that is tough to get anywhere else.
I knew all of this, but I also knew that something was missing for me and that “missing” was the ability to not just be there during the moments of terror and crisis.
What was missing was the ability to be there after the call. If I could be there after, I could help them survive what had just occurred or that had been occurring for far too long.
I always wanted to help them heal and thrive in the face of such tragedy and adversity. This was even before I had to endure losing you and build back an entirely new life.
Many police officers find ways of doing this while wearing the uniform, but I knew my path was in the world of psychology and therapy. I knew this from the depths of my soul, and I knew this very early on in my career but couldn’t seem to figure out how to make it happen.
My way was to create that safe space for those who have been broken. Those who have experienced grief and trauma and those who need help rearranging the pieces, and moving forward to a new normal.
The pieces will never be put back the same way, it’s impossible, but the end result can be just as beautiful and sometimes even more beautiful than it was before.
That is what was missing for me, and I needed to explore that.
When I finally decided to do so, you were there, and your support was exactly what I needed to move forward with this unknown territory and complete discomfort.
Nick, you were there, and your encouragement was electric.
I don’t know how many times a day, you would either say or text, “Dr. Roberts, here we come.”
Whenever I had fears of working full-time as a police officer and going back to school at the same time, you were there to shut my fears down and push me forward. You would often say the words, “don’t be dumb,” and of course, I knew that was coming from a place of sincere love.
Well, Nick, five years later, and guess what? I am starting my Master’s of Counseling degree in just a little under a month. Remember when we had planned to be either debt-free or close to it by the age of 35?
Well….um…..I am far from it.
I am starting this program that is perfectly aligned with who I am as a human being. A program that shares the values that I hold close to my heart. I had my student orientation day yesterday, and my heart exploded with joy and excitement and multiple times throughout the day, I had tears in my eyes because I knew 100% that this was precisely where I was meant to be.
I heard statements from the faculty, such as:
“you are starting a journey that is not only going to change your life but the lives of so many people; you are starting the journey of becoming a healer.”
I also heard statements such as “Welcome to graduate school. What were you thinking”– this was followed up of course with sincere comments like, “we’ve got you.”
In some ways, it feels like it has taken me forever to get to this point, but in other ways, it has all happened so fast, and I can’t even believe what I am about to do. These next two years are going to fly by, and although I can’t wait to learn so much, a part of me knows that so much happens in two years, and I wonder what other personal experiences I will have to add to my tool belt when I become a registered psychologist at the end of all of this.
That excites me and terrifies me all at the same time.
I thought you would be with me on this journey. I wanted you to be with me on this journey, but like I just said, even though we make plans, things happen, and sometimes it’s far from what we imagined.
Last night we celebrated my Birthday with the girls since we had them this past week and not tomorrow. We all had chicken wings in your honor, and the girls wished you a happy birthday. Ryley wrote me a note asking me to tell you Happy Birthday, but I reminded her that it doesn’t have to go through me.
You are there, you hear us, and you know.
I can’t believe this is my fifth Birthday with-out you.
I can’t believe it’s your fifth Birthday in heaven.
We were supposed to turn 35 tomorrow.
Instead, I am here without you, about to enter a world that I used to believe was supposed to be ours.
Me and You.
I have come so far since your death, and I know now that my life is exactly as it’s meant to be, but this year, our Birthday has felt a bit heavier because of all of our plans we wanted to realize before we turned 35. All of the plans that didn’t happen.
This was going to be a great age for us.
The heaviness is not from a place of regret or unbearable sadness; the heaviness comes from a place in my heart that will always miss you and still wonder what it might have been had you not died.
Even as I say that, I know that it was always meant to be Scott and me. I know you do too, and I think I can say that at this point without thinking I will hurt you. I can say this because of the healing I have done thus far.
I can say this because I feel you with me always.
I will never forget the day Heather texted me the following words:
“I think Nick was always meant to be your angel, but you had to know him first so you could trust him.”
Those words have stuck with me since the day she wrote them, and although it took me some time to get to this place, I believe those words to be true.
I trust you, Nick, and I trust your continuous guidance as I carry on down my journey. I trust that you are there for all of us, and I feel your presence often.
Although this birthday is different than what we thought it would be, I feel blessed.
I feel blessed for having known you and getting to have this form of relationship with you now. I believe our connection is stronger than it ever has been because it is impossible to connect in this way in the physical world, and I feel lucky.
Tomorrow, on this heavenly Birthday of yours, I want you to know that you will never be forgotten. You will always be one of the loves of my life, and we will always speak your name.
You are a part of our life and our family and your memory will live on for as long as I live.
Thank you for your existence, your spiritual presence, and any part of you that has played a role in making my life what it is today.
Happy Birthday my love,