Cops Don’t Always Shoot the Crazy Guy

About a year ago, here in Hamilton, a man’s life was cut short when he was shot to death by two Hamilton Police Service officers. Steven Mesic left behind his girlfriend, who was carrying his unborn child at the time, as well as his parents, family, and friends. He was thirty-two years old. I cannot imagine the pain that comes with losing a child, but I am familiar with the devastation that follows such a loss and my heart goes out to his entire family.

But I’m not talking about the Mesic family this morning. I want to talk about the police. The department, the training, the two officers, the SIU, are all under fire right now as the inquest into this tragedy is wrapping up in the courthouse. The bottom line is, the jury can’t decide if Mr. Mesic was a victim of suicide or murder. And they’ve made 10 recommendations based on the case, including improved training for police when dealing with the emotionally troubled.

You’re kidding, right?

Come on.

As it turns out, Mr. Mesic was in hospital that morning. He checked himself out. He jumped in front of a bus. He headed home. Police caught up with him, somewhere on the highway side of the fence at the back of his own yard. Something went wrong then, and Mr. Mesic, with shovel in hand, was shot and killed by the officers. There’s all kinds of speculation and discrepancy around what actually happened, and understandably, the family needs to blame someone. So, of course, the two cops are taking the brunt of an assault that is wrongly aimed at them.

The blame lies, not even with the doctor who, able to assess Mr. Mesic at length in the calm, safe environment of St. Joseph’s Hospital, didn’t know how volatile his condition was that day. Nor with the family, who was well aware of the history of Mesic’s mental illness.

We all must take some measure of responsibility in this, and every other similar matter. It all comes down to the inability of our entire medical system to adequately lend aid to our mentally ill. From impossible wait times, to ridiculously tedious outpatient treatments, to the general ignorance of the public, to the complete and total lack of support post-treatment, our most vulnerable – and dangerous – citizens are left to their own devices. The Juravinskis can build all the big beautiful hospitals they want. But if there’s no system in place to actually help these people with their conditions, addictions, and demons, we’re just creating a lot of new construction jobs.

I know of what I speak. I traveled this horrible road of despair – am still on that path – trying to find help for my son who suffers terribly from a handful of mental ailments. After years of failed outpatient treatments and anger at a village that perpetually turned its back on him, he finally tried to ‘suicide-by-cop’ last summer. He was one of hundreds that the police encounter annually – and they didn’t hurt him. They were able to calm him, care for him, and get him the medical treatment he so desperately needed. After six weeks in hospital, I learned that there were no supports for him after discharge. There was no safe place for him to live where he wouldn’t be sitting right back in the middle of all of the ingredients that mixed together to create the most dangerous environment possible for his condition. I made the decision to bring him home, believing, despite the dangers his behaviour could present to myself and his siblings, that a solid loving home was the best place for him to heal. It has been a long and difficult process.

I will write his story. It needs to be told. And while he’s given me permission to talk about this, I think he needs to tell it.

In the meantime, I cannot begin to express my gratitude and confidence in the police, the department, and the training that worked together to bring my son home to us. They deal with these issues every day. They encounter the ’emotionally troubled’ at every turn; it’s the nature of their work. Yet even while our doctors have weeks, months, even years, to make a fully researched diagnosis, how, in any kind of reality, can anyone expect two cops to make that determination, in minutes, while some crazy guy is running into traffic and swinging a shovel at them?

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It’s Valentine’s Day – Prove Your Love

Wondering what to buy your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day? What can you do that proves your love? Something that proves you care, something valentine heartthat says, ‘You are the most important person in my life. I couldn’t live without you. But just in case…’

No it’s not funny. Seriously, if you have anyone in your life that fits the bill – spouse, kids, friend, sister, father, (insert any other title here) – you need to read this.

Having recently, suddenly, and unexpectedly lost my happy, healthy, active husband, I am begging you, and anyone who will listen, to make sure your family will be okay without you.

Here’s a list of five things I know now that I’m beyond grateful we did then:

We had wills. After our first son was born, we went to a lawyer. We had matching wills drawn up, standard, generic documents, leaving ‘everything we owned’ to each other. Naming an executor and beneficiaries if we died together. And – truthfully, this should be law – naming a guardian for our son. The wills were worded so that they would include any future children, property, assets, and debts. That son was 18 when his dad died. The will stands. And it has been the single most important document of my life. Two half-hour visits, twenty years ago, $300. Without a shred of doubt, the best purchase we have ever made. Start bequeathing!

We bought lfamily handsife insurance. We took the mortgage insurance, the loan insurance, and enough term insurance to make sure that we would each be able to continue our lives with our kids as we always have. We never missed a payment – no matter what. With everything that happened that dreadful day, the slow-motion memories that constantly play through my mind, the only brightness I recall, was the looks of sheer relief on the faces of my mom, my sister, and my kids, when I was able to tell them, ‘Yes, dad is gone, but we’re going to be okay. We get to keep the house. We don’t have to move. You stay at the same schools, with the same jobs, and the same friends. We get to miss him without having to worry about what will happen to us.’ It’s something you couldn’t possibly understand until it’s too late. Make that call.

We talked to each other. About a lot of things – final wishes, organ donation, re-marrying. Most of the conversations were quite tongue-in-cheek; we made some entertaining threats, depending on the mood. intimate talkingThe only thing we both agreed on, every time we joked, talked, considered, was that we would do whatever we thought best for the ourselves and the kids. This was crucial when I was faced with some of the hardest, fastest decisions I’ve ever had to make – many with the unexpected and adamant disapproval of other family members – without the one person I had always counted on most to help me get through the tough times. Start talking.

We were organized. At least our finances were, anyway. That’s not to say they were in great shape – we have five kids! That’s to say that all of our bank statements, bills, taxes, mortgage updates, insurance policies, wills, marriage certificate (!!!), passports, ID, health cards, and employee numbers were handy and available at all times. Same with passwords for voicemail, bank accounts, debit and credit cards, employee portals, email. Even the passcodes for his phone and computer. Write it down, lock it up, keep it handy.

We left nothing unsaid. The last morning of his life, Paul left the house grumbling at everyone – the younger kids were all off school that day, and he, the teacher, wasn’t – we teased him, laughed because he’d cut himself shaving, the son who attended the same school wasn’t ready yet, still in bed, ignored the repeated calls of ‘time to go.’ My final ‘have a good day’ was mocking with sarcasm. Two hours later, he was dead. There were so many people who expressed such regrets at not having called him back, or made time for coffee, or answered that email, or, or, or… I told them all the same thing I told my kids. When dad left for school that morning, no one was dying. We can’t live every day as if it’s our last – only people who are dying do that. Living is enjoying life without the cloud of death hanging over you. We knew he loved us. He knew we loved him. Period. That’s how we lived – every day. Everything else is just a part of a regular day in the life of a typical happy family. Stop worrying.feet

Nobody wants to talk about this stuff. No one wants to admit they’re mortal. No one wants to envision their own demise. But ignoring the fact that you will die one day will not prevent that destiny. And the only people who will pay for your sticking your head in the sand and hoping for the best are your kids. Your loved ones. They will pay and pay and pay – at a time when the last thing they need are more worries and problems. Prepare now. Put your affairs in order. Six hours. Two weeks. Tweek the budget just a bit. It’s the best investment you will ever make.

Then you can enjoy your Valentine’s Day with chocolates and champagne knowing that if the worst does happen, you’ve given your loved ones everything they need to carry on without you.

How To ‘Say The Right Thing’ After A Tragedy

You know who I am. I’m your

sister-in-law / cousin / friend / neighbour / coworker / bridesmaid / carpool member / other

who

lost her husband / just had a baby with Down syndrome / found out her mom has cancer / buried her third-born twelve years ago / was in a serious car accident / lost her job / was just diagnosed with thrombocytopaenia / other

I love you. I know you want to help. And I get that you have no idea how. So please, let me tell you what I need.sadness

Don’t avoid my tragedy. Let me talk about it, ask me questions, listen to my story. I need to tell it, over and over again. I need to settle the details. I need to sort through what happened and understand where I’m at. I can’t possibly begin to move forward until I know what just happened to me. Don’t pity me. I need you to think I’m strong and capable so I will believe that, too. No matter how much I cry.

  • But don’t correct or assist me. If you know of a sure-fired solution to a part of my problem, call me later, after you’ve had ‘time to think on it.’ Don’t tell me now; I’ll only hear judgement, criticism, and disappointment. You can’t possibly understand what every minute is like for me right now – please don’t make me think you could handle this better than I’m barely managing to do myself.

Don’t ask how I am. Not unless it’s the right time and place to get into the gory details. Tell me you’re glad to see me. Tell me I’m looking strong/happy/deep in thought. But stay away from my appearance; I’m likely not at my best.

  • Feel free to invite me out for a spa day. I’d love a new hairdo, manicure, or, ooh, yes, a massage. God knows I haven’t done anything for myself in ages. But don’t go overboard and try to make me over. I can’t make any decisions right now. And the last thing I need is a new hair colour, a colon-cleanse, or my first Brazilian waxing.

Don’t tell me we should get together. Invite me out. Set a specific time and place. A movie, a dinner, a girls’ night out. If I can go, I will; if I can’t I won’t.

  • Make the arrangements. But even if you call and ask me out every week for a year, and I say no every time, know that I know you’re there and that you care – for real. Please don’t leave it open ended; intentions mean nothing. Nobody ever follows up.

Don’t tell me to ask you for help. I won’t. Even if I know what I need, I’m not going to bother you. Every time we talk, you’re so busy with work and the kids and the renovation and the volunteering. There’s no room for me.

  • Call me and tell me you have Saturday open. You’d like to come over and be mine for the day. You’ll be here at 9 and stay til 5. Whatever I need: help cleaning a closet, painting a room, cooking and stocking the freezer, sitting and watching two seasons of Game of Thrones. I’m crying just writing that down.

Don’t forget about me. Call me. I’m not as busy as you think I am. If I can’t talk, I won’t answer the phone.

  • But leave me a message to let me know you’re thinking about me. Don’t worry if I don’t answer – and please don’t pressure me to. But keep calling. I need to know you’re there when I finally get a chance to come up for a breath of fresh air. Write me a card. I likely won’t respond, but know that your card will sit on my desk for weeks, even months, reminding me that I have friends who still care about me, and that my world hasn’t completely fallen apart.

friends
Know that I’m dealing with this the best way I know how. Let me do it my way, but help me to be strong for myself and my family. Help me to find hope again. And know that I love and need you. I can’t get through this without you.

And one day when I am a better version of myself for having survived this mess, know that I will be there for you.