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Just before Thanksgiving, this grieving police officer received a message of comfort loud and clear.
I sat behind the wheel of my patrol car that cold November afternoon, listening quietly to the football game on the radio. As long as it didn’t drown out the squawks coming over the police frequency, that was allowed. But my mind wasn’t on the game. It wasn’t even totally on the job. Two weeks earlier, my family had been dealt a huge blow: My Uncle Tony, Big T, was gone.
A massive heart attack took him in his sleep. Uncle Tony didn’t have children, so I was like a son to him. We both had hectic schedules—he was a director for his church—but we always checked in. I couldn’t imagine life without him. Especially with Thanksgiving coming up. Our big Italian feasts at his house were legendary: Seven courses! It’s a wonder I rolled out of there still in good enough shape for patrol duty.
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When my wife Nikki and I needed a break between antipasti and lasagna, Big T reluctantly put on the NFL Network for us. He wasn’t a football fan, but he got a kick out of watching us. We’d turn the volume up, way up—cheering on our teams, hollering at the TV. “Loud enough, Charles?” he’d tease me, mock-covering his ears. “Why ya watchin’ a buncha guys chasin’ a ball anyway?” I could still hear him laughing.
Now he was gone. Nikki, an editor for Guideposts, tried to lift my spirits. “Uncle Tony will always be with you,” she told me. But I wasn’t so sure. As a cop, I need to be logical, cynical even, always looking to connect the dots. How could Big T still be with us?
I booted up the Info-Cop system and shifted into gear. “I miss you, Big T!” I said, pulling out of my space, not even sure who I was speaking to.
“FIRST AND TEN AT THE 25!” I nearly jumped through the roof. The volume on the radio had shot up, way up. I turned down the dial. It didn’t work. What’s going on?
I pulled over, cut the engine. Only when I restarted did the volume return to normal. Big T? Impossible, I decided. Just a busted radio.
The next day, I took out a different car. Started it up and turned on sports radio, still wondering about the day before. Just as I pulled out, the volume shot up again. Same exact thing.
This time I laughed. I pictured my uncle, wherever he was, covering his ears, shouting over the noise. “Loud enough, Charles? Loud enough?” I couldn’t wait to tell the family on Thanksgiving.
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No other officer had radio problems in the cars I’d taken. Since then, neither have I. I’d already heard what I needed to hear, loud and clear.