An open letter to Gracie Parrish, the young widow of fallen warrior, Deputy Zackari Parrish,
who was killed responding to a call in our community last Sunday.

Dear Gracie,

You looked so beautiful today, dear one. I have watched from afar, as your husband’s motorcade traveled two blocks from my home, as media helicopters circled overhead, as the funeral for your husband live-streamed on our local news site. I have watched you with understanding.

In your black dress, with the elegance of a Hepburn, you stepped onto the stage to read your last letter to your husband. Seven years ago this week, I did the very same as a new widow. I watched you with a deep understanding, recognizing the strength that you walk in.

It is not yours, we both know. But we have it in common.

As a widow, you now belong to the Worst Club Ever. It will be a long, hard road, this one you are on. You didn’t ask to walk this path. But here you are, you and your two daughters. How small they are. How strong you are.

Here are my words for you, tender warrior.

You loved Zack with a precious and lasting love. Nobody can take that from you. Grief is your receipt for loving so well. There is no timeline. Take as long as you need in every way you need.

Your little girls will grieve in the ways children do. And their grief will change as they grow. As they learn more about life, they will understand more about death. Answer their questions as you can. And do not fear the words, “I don’t know the answer to that one, sweet child of mine.” Children crave honesty more than answers that aren’t real.

Your winter may last for two years, dear girl. This first year is for your head to begin to make sense of the black and white realities of your new life. Next year, the second, is for your heart to begin to thaw and process the colors and nuances of truth. I say this not to intimidate you by the length of a long dark tunnel, but to encourage you on your path. Be not rushed.

Clear your calendar. You have no obligations to anyone. Nobody, at all. You are in a lifeboat now, just big enough for you and those darling little girls. If anyone pushes on a corner of your boat, you may topple over. Your only job is to stay afloat. Let go of anything that weighs down a single corner of your careful balance.

You may grow very weary of sadness. When that happens, give yourself the gift of a day off. Tell the world who questions, tell anyone with the audacity to ask, “I’m taking a day off from sadness today. Today, we are laughing.” When laughter comes to visit, pull up a chair and let her dine with you. Laughter is a gift of the memory.

The world will move forward in the days and weeks to come. But I will carry you in my heart, circling your name in my journal. I will ask Jesus to be near to your broken heart, to hold together your broken spirit.

Grace, your faith is fierce. Heaven is real to you now, because your husband is there. In a world of wanderers, you hold a compass. Your heart has a true north.

We live in the same city, dear one. Our town is quiet today, all but the sounds of helicopters and bagpipes. We grieve for the one you have lost.

I am so sorry. And I am so very sad for you, in ways far deeper than words.

May we give you the grace you need, the privacy you crave, the memories you want, and the time it takes.  May we love you well.

Your new friend,


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