John and Patty were like two little kids, affectionate, smiling, and genuinely happy to celebrate John’s retirement. He’d served for 31 years in an honorable law enforcement career. They’d been together the entire time, raising three children who spoke eloquently and fondly about both of them. The room was filled with law enforcement of all ranks, family, and friends—everyone was at ease and truly having a good time. It was a pleasure to be there.
That night John demonstrated a snapshot of what it means to finish strong. He finished well in a beloved career, respected and armed with stories of wit and humor. He was still with the same spouse, more than ready to ride off onto the golf course to enjoy their latter years together. Not only was it a rare and beautiful thing to behold, their love for each other spilled out into the room. Their happiness was contagious.
But their life together wasn’t without difficulty. Patty remembered the early years when Valley Fever threatened to take John’s life. He endured five-hour treatments for three times a week over five months. She never left his side. “There were also days of struggle,” she says. “Like shift work, keeping kids quiet while Daddy slept, hours and days spent alone while he lived three hours away and I had to care for three teenagers. But we always talked our way through the struggles, regardless of what they were.” During those times their law enforcement family was their support, even donating hours when John’s sick time ran out.
Patty attributes their marital success to their early friendship they developed in college. “We were best friends, and then decided to give dating a shot,” she smiled. “And here we are, 33 years later!” That friendship included prayer, honesty, understanding, and even self-sacrifice for the good of their marriage and their children. “If we can quit kicking and screaming and demanding our own way during our relationship hurts, we can see the bigger picture,” she adds. They chose to forgive the mistakes they made along the way.
They also put up boundaries for themselves when they disagreed. Patty recalls, “John and I made a vow that we would never ever call each other names when we argued. Words can be a blessing or a curse, and we vowed never to curse each other or call negativity upon one another.”
Their kids were given the same accountability and authentic trust. “We let them know there were consequences to every action/reaction in life,” she confided. “They knew they would never be able to ‘use Dad’s name’ to get out of situations. We are accountable for our actions. This included John and I—being accountable for our own negative behavior and mistakes and asking forgiveness from our kids for those actions. We tried hard to maintain this throughout our 33 years together. We have grown together as a family because of it.”
Finally, Patty attributes the joy in their family to their longtime faith. “I have learned that when we allow God to lead and guide, He will bless our relationships and our lives.”
It was very clear that this couple and their growing family had not only reaped the blessings of support and love in one another, but were finishing strong. Throughout the night, John received kudos, awards, and congratulations. At the end of the party, John presented Patty with a lovely necklace. As he placed the gold chain around her neck, she looked down to see a small replica of John’s badge. “Because you’ve been faithfully by my side through all of these years,” he beamed, “you’ve earned your own badge.”
Victoria Newman is an author, speaker, and founder of How2LoveYourCop, an organization that provides positive resources for law enforcement families. She is author of A CHiP on my Shoulder and A Marriage in Progress, speaks all over the United States and Canada, mentors several spouses, and is a blogger and ghostwriter. Her website is: www.how2loveyourcop.com.