He told the waiter, “On July 1st, I will become a grandpa.” The waiter looked at this clairvoyant customer and asked, “How do you know the exact date?” My future father-in-law, pointing at me, replied, “That is the day my daughter is going to marry this guy.” The waiter smiled and said to me, “You are lucky to have this man.” He confirmed what I already knew.
From the first day my infant son met his future “Gampy,” their souls were connected. After only months on this earth, both lost their mothers to unforgiving disease. In the years since, that waiter’s prophetic words have echoed true. My father-in-law has become my mentor and my best friend.
On so many occasions, I ask myself: What would Gampy do? His heart is as big as his double-extra-large stature. I met him months after he retired, finishing his distinguished career as a captain with the State Police. I have been told in the years since by his former colleagues that “the heart you see in your children’s grandfather is the same heart that was revealed in his service to the people of New York.”
Each time I see a police officer, I see Gampy’s face. Each time I learn about the loss of an officer, I think of the void that is left in the hearts of those who loved him, as I love Gampy.
Several months ago, I received a phone call from my niece in Baltimore. Weeks earlier, she and her husband welcomed a beautiful boy into the world. “Uncle Pat, Rob and I want you to be his godfather.”
I was overcome; my niece is a young lady whom I hold in very high regard. She is intelligent, funny and kind. Although she is 20 years my junior, I use my niece as a guide in making important decisions. In the months since, I frequently receive pictures of my godson. I gaze at them for long periods of time. He is the grandchild of Nigerian immigrants; his beautiful black skin is a perfect combination of his African father and his Irish-American mother.
Each time I hear of a young black man’s death, my heart aches for his family and I think of the void that is left in the hearts of those who loved him, as I love my godson.
For some reason, we have looked at police officers and the people they serve as being diametrically opposed to one another. Actually the opposite is true. As the fate of our young people goes, so does the fate of those who are sworn to serve and protect them. What has gone missing is the love that should bond the police and the communities they protect.
Love is the most sophisticated element of the human being. Hate, on the other hand, is unsophisticated. It is a simple response that fails to consult the soul when we are confronted by adversity.
The violence that has gripped the nation’s headlines is a failure of us to consult our souls. Those who angrily retort the phrase “Black Lives Matter” and those who respond the same way to “Blue Lives Matter” are denying themselves of our basic human need – love. Simple slogans that suggest one group is more important than another have planted the seeds of hatred. The time has come for us to weed the garden and fertilize our souls with love.
One of my heroes, Mother Teresa, once stated that our problems are a result of us forgetting that we belong to each other. I am blessed to realize this truth because a cop from New York belongs to me and a beautiful black baby has captivated my heart.