On Wednesday, August 18th, 2010, the world lost one of it’s most amazing individuals. I was in California, I was sitting in Starbucks with my friend Cai and my sister Jean. I checked my phone and noticed a missed call and a missed text message from Sara, my boss. “Jennet, call me immediately.” I figured I was in trouble – that’s always my first assumption – so I was afraid to call but her message sounded important. She told me with a shaky voice that Reed (my favorite officer, but don’t tell the others) had been involved in an accident. It wasn’t good. He was in surgery. Tears filled my eyes as I thought of his smiling face, his laugh, his “hey sunshine” and his insistence that I wear my hair down because it was pretty. We couldn’t lose him. There was no way. He was such an integral part of my day to day activities at work. I remembered his attitude as he came on duty “twwweelllve seventy seven, teeeen forty-one” and my response, ‘twwwweellllve seventy seven, go ahead.” It always made me smile. We couldn’t lose him.
But we did.
After I talked to Sara I was pretty much sobbing in the middle of Starbucks. My sister and Cai looked at me, concerned, and I explained the situation. We prayed, and Cai gave me a beautiful necklace to “think of him, anytime you wear it, no matter what happens.” I put it on right there. It was pretty fitting – a silver mold of an acorn nut surrounding a solitary pearl. She didn’t realize then how much it fit, because Reed was always a bit of a nut – and the necklace looks like a bell… a bell that doesn’t ring.
I was shopping with my sister and I talked to several coworkers on the phone as we went through the store. We expressed concern. We talked about how amazing he was. And as we got to the car, I got a text message. He didn’t make it.
I looked at the words and I don’t think it was really real to me, even though I immediately burst into tears. My sister knew immediately what the message was and wrapped me in a hug and prayed quickly for God to comfort me, his family and his friends.
I still haven’t recovered.
I’ve lost officers before – when I worked at Harris County I lost one of my officers to suicide. He was off duty but it was still heartbreaking. I didn’t know him nearly as well as I knew Reed. He would brag on his wife and kids to us, he would cheer us up and bring us food when we were busy in dispatch and desperate for something other than microwave fare. He could cheer up a room no matter what was going on.
His funeral was a week ago. It was an all day event including a beautiful service, a harrowing graveside service and a wake the likes of which I’ve never seen. There was officer after officer from other agencies there to honor him; I never realized how much it meant until that day. Those officers did not know him; they knew of his sacrifice and that was enough. Sara did the last call on the radio and it was one of the most beautiful moments of the service to me (I’m sure it didn’t mean as much to some, but as a dispatcher it was incredibly meaningful and significant). When she said to show Leonard Reed 10-42 (off duty) I started sobbing. I’m crying now remembering. He’s only 10-41 (on duty) in heaven now.
When we were at his burial it was beautiful and holy and solemn but it was super hot and humid and I kept picturing him in my head going “Sunshine, I really appreciate all this, but y’all need to get into some air conditioning and DANCE!”
Reed was a dancer. Pretty much any opportunity he had he would groove a little bit, give us a head bob or an arm wave. He was a free spirit who was passionate about everything he did. He once tried to help an old lady across a flooded roadway… he grabbed her hand, tried to walk with her…. slipped and caused them BOTH to tumble into the water, him on top of her! It was comedic genius, he couldn’t have planned it better. We teased him about that forever after it happened… every once in a while we’d ask him if he’d fallen on any old ladies lately. He would get that look on his face and go “Yoouuu!!!” and shake his fist at us like he was angry (but he wasn’t).
When my parents died he took me aside and told me about losing his mom, and told me how much it hurt and how eventually it does get better.
On the one year anniversary of my parent’s death he made a tacky joke (not remembering) about murder and I kept shaking my head at him. “What??” he kept asking, and I kept shaking my head until I eventually dissolved in tears. I said “I’m sorry, that’s just not cool, it was a year ago today…” and just started sobbing. He ran around to where I was sitting and enveloped me in a hug and whispered he was sorry in my ear. He smiled at me. “You know I love you sunshine,” and I did.
He went out of his way to help people. I’ve seen a lot in my line of work and sometimes it’s easy to forget about the humanity of the people we deal with. He never did. He ALWAYS tried to help, even when it was a lost cause. He said all he could do was try to help, the rest was up to them and God.
I’m sure he’s up in heaven now catching up with his momma and all the others that went before him. I’m just so incredibly sad I don’t have him around anymore to smile at me and cheer up everyone he came in contact with. One of my other officers said it so well “I could absolutely hate you, but if Leonard was here with the two of us, everyone would be getting along” and that’s so true, you couldn’t hate him or hate anything when he was around.
I think the world would be a better place if we all tried to be a little more like him.
There’s been so much written about him and some amazing videos done about him (most of them posted to my facebook), but I just wanted to get some thoughts down about him. I’m absolutely serious when I say that more people should try to be like him. He had bad days, everyone does. But even still he always kept his smile around. He was a faithful friend. He was quick to help out a coworker. He was my friend, and I miss him terribly. I have faith he’s in a better place, but gosh I’m going to miss him.
Rest in peace, my friend. Dance with Jesus. I’ll see you in a while…