‘The medics arrived, and he couldn’t hide his pain. My husband extended his hand, looked him straight in the eye and quietly said, ‘Thanks for the ride.’: Widow of police officer shares touching thanks to everyday heroes

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With the recent anniversary of 9/11, I am reminded of the quote, “Bravery is not the absence of fear, but action in the face of fear.” We circled around our televisions in shock and awe at the attacks taking place in our country and watched as so many selfless men and women ran to the aid of strangers. As in all times of chaos, the heroes beelined to the destruction in the hopes to make the future path safe for all of us. For the first time, those people in my generation saw what so many generations had seen before. The faces that defined bravery. The faces, though tired, exhausted and scared, were taking action in spite of their own safety and their own fear. It is not that their fear was absent. It was that they decided to act anyway. They did the things that so many of us could not fathom. They did the hard things, the scary things, the sad things, and regardless of being afraid, they did the right thing anyway.

Maybe it’s the path I am on, or the fact I am so vocal about my grief after my husband died of pancreatic cancer, but lately, I have come into contact with several people walking several difficult roads with debilitating challenges. It has compelled me to tell you all this, so that if you are facing a difficult time, you might be inspired to rise above it, and find ways to get through it, while staying true to who you are. As hard as it is, you can do it.

My husband has been referred to countless times as a warrior. And a warrior he was. He was able to do amazing things after his diagnosis, surgery and during chemotherapy because he decided he was not going to let his cancer beat him if he could help it. He was going to do everything he could to get through it and be as “normal” as possible. For Chad, being “normal” was being extraordinary because on a daily basis, he was honorable, kind, generous, compassionate and in some ways, he was fearless. In the midst of dying, he still committed himself to serving his community and protecting the good from the evil. It’s just the way he was.

A “hero” is defined as: a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

I am so lucky to have so many heroes in my life. In my own profession as a police and fire dispatcher, I work with heroes every day. My family consists of a long line of hero veterans. I helped raise a couple of heroes with two sons in the military. I know so many people who have done so many great things.

On September 11, 2001, we saw all the heroes in their uniforms. On September 12th, 2001, and the months following, we saw what the everyday hero looks like. People bringing food and water to the first responders, people organizing fundraisers for the victims and their families and people who simply hung a flag and lit a candle when they couldn’t think of anything else to do. Because of that, today, I am reminded of the everyday hero. The man who stops his car to help an elderly lady cross the road in busy traffic, the child who stands up to the school bully,  the teacher who gives her student encouragement, the farmer who works before the sun comes up until after the sun goes down to make sure you have food on your table, the street worker who cleans the road of snow or debris, the power lineman, passengers on a doomed plane, and so many more.

There are a multitude of heroes in our lives, yet my favorite one is the person who looks fear in the face and battles it anyway. One who doesn’t back away from it. One who, when faced with it, still holds true to the person they are and does not let it change their values and morals or talk them out of doing the right thing.

That’s why my husband was a hero. I could give you a list of all the things he did as a cop that he should have received a medal for, but what I really want to do is tell you about the time when he was faced with true fear and was brave anyway. It was a moment I witnessed in his deepest, darkest despair, yet he still did the right thing.

Wife stands beside cop husband smiling who has since passed from pancreatic cancer
Diana Register/Grief Life

Towards the end of his life, I had to call an ambulance twice. It was the most painstaking thing to do, because he didn’t want me to. He did not want to go to the hospital. He did not want to die. He knew if he went, there was a very good possibility he was going to be told his fight was over. He did not want the ambulance to come. He did not want paramedics to tend to him in his bed. He did not want to be weak, and he did not want to be sick. But, I had to call, I had to. With tumors ravishing his body, his pain was immeasurable, and I could not allow him to suffer. I called for the ambulance against his wishes and he was upset with me, I felt awful. Defeated, I didn’t know what else I was supposed to do.

The medics arrived, and Chad couldn’t hide his pain from them. He did his best, but everybody knew he was hurting. They gave him an IV, started some pain meds, assessed him, and eventually transported him to the emergency room. They transferred him to the hospital bed and finished their paperwork.

As the medics were getting ready to leave, Chad was still lying in pain because there was no amount of narcotics that could even touch it. He was still angry he was there. He didn’t say anything, but I could see it on his face. The medics finished up whatever they had to do and told him they were leaving.

It was then that I saw it. My husband grunted and groaned and mustered up every piece of strength he had. He pulled on the bed rail and walked himself up into a sitting position on his elbows and sat up as far as he could. Without saying a word, he extended his hand to the medic. The medic shook it, and Chad looked him straight in the eye and quietly said, “thanks for the ride“.

The medic left, and Chad collapsed back into the bed, full of pain and fear.

But, he was brave enough to rise above it for a single moment to thank him. That moment is burned into my memory because it was a show of strength and respect that I’ve never seen before. That somebody in such excruciating pain, who didn’t want to be where he was, could still take a single second to do what’s right.

He did it because it’s who he was. But I tell you this story to inspire you to not lose track of who you are. There is greatness in all of us. There is bravery in all of us. And there is strength in all of us. As you come up against what seems like impossible challenges, remember you can do it, you can sit up just as far as you can, and maybe for that moment – that will be enough.

Don’t ever give up on yourself. Not ever. And don’t ever be afraid to look fear in the face and overcome it. That’s the mark of a true warrior, and a true hero.

Stay strong, friends.


This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her bestselling book, “Grief Life,” is now available in print and kindle. Experience love, laughter, loss and hope in this raw, emotional, honest look at grief. You can follow her work on her Facebook page. She has been chronicling her journey with grief in a series of stories for Love What Matters:

‘With his body full of tumors, he kept working’: Wife’s tremendous grief after husband’s cancer diagnosis

‘We pulled into the cemetery. It struck me we didn’t have anything to leave behind. As she opened the door, there it was. Two vials of glitter.’

‘I let my 15-year-old daughter get a tattoo, and no, I don’t care what anybody has to say about it.’

‘We do not think of dispatchers as heroes, but that night, Jeff was mine.’

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