First responders serve us, and it is my honor to serve them. Deputy Eric Overall was one of those I was able to help bear a dark load. As a father, he had suffered an unimaginable loss and bore a heavy burden for it. As a police officer, a constant tempest of trauma afforded him little relief and at the moment, even less hope. I met Eric at one of my trainings. I instantly saw the strain in his face as told me about his struggles. I walked with him over the course of a couple of my classes, and he seemed to regain the purpose and strength to truly live again. It was told to me after our time together, “he was so strong after meeting you.

But as it happens, the deep bonds I forge with men and women like Eric are mitigated by my massive amount of travel. I don’t keep in touch nearly as well as I should. It is my one regret doing this work. I don’t have the opportunity to develop all the relationships I begin to form. It is a loneliness, especially when I’m away from home and my family. Yet, this ache keeps me humble and focused, and for that I am thankful. Sometimes.

“Have you heard, Eric was killed a few hours ago.”

This message on Thanksgiving from a friend of Eric and mine was lethal. I was sitting in my living room surrounded by family when I received it and the words bit deep. I began to sob as my family looked up with puzzled, worried looks on their faces. For dad to cry, it had to be bad.

“Killed! He had only began smiling again, inside and out. No!!! Why! God, how could you let this happen!” I wanted to scream aloud as the words banged around inside my head. The company of my family kept me from completely freaking out.

When the crying was done, I became determined to find a way to remember Eric. It did not take long to come up with an answer. I would take the same advice I had given him. We best honor those who have fallen by how we live. Use each day and every breath for something that matters – family, faith, friendships, purpose.

I thought of Eric and realized in my passion to help others I had let my own virtues go neglected: time with my wife, precious fun with the kids, writing, etc. That was no way to honor him and all the others that serve as the thin line between us and chaos. They serve so that we can live.

So Eric, I honor you by writing this. And I will honor you by remembering your smile and using it as encouragement to focus on the foundations of my life – family, faith, speaking, writing, and reaching anyone I can struggling to find their footing and live.

You can join me by doing the same. Our first responders truly bear a weighty burden to keep us safe. While we sleep, they are out on the streets, while we avoid the worst of conditions, they run to them. In Eric’s honor, in their honor, make each day matter. Love better, listen more closely, forgive yourself and others, search for meaning. And the next time you see a first responder, say thank you.

Deputy Eric Overall, may your memory be eternal.

Please join me by making a donation to the family of Deputy Eric Overall – https://www.gofundme.com/in-memory-of-deputy-eric-overall

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