The flashing blue and white lights exploded in my rear view mirror, cutting through the dark Friday night in a most unwelcome way.
I eased over to the side of the road, turned off the happy Jeremy Camp version of “Jingle Bell Rock” that I had been singing, and sighed.
After thirty two years of speeding across roads in several states, I had finally been busted.
I turned on the overhead light so the cop could see that it was just me alone in the car. I pulled my license from my wallet and just as I was fumbling for my registration card, he came up to the driver’s side, positioning himself just behind me.
“Good evening, Ma’am,” His voice was pleasant. ” Did you know that I clocked you going 59 in a 40 mph zone?”
He was young…young enough to be my son.
I smiled slightly, apologetically. “I wasn’t aware that I was going that fast, no.” (I was actually surprised to discover I wasn’t going faster).
I was still trying to find my registration card, which was difficult because it looked just like my insurance card.
“That’s the one you are looking for, ” he said kindly, helpfully.
I handed him my license and registration and he told me he would be right back.
My friend Jackie texted me at that moment, asking how my night was going.
“Pulled over on the side of the highway by a cop. Busted for speeding.” I texted back. I did not text the fact that I was on my way to a Bible study for teen girls that my friend Wendy and I lead every other Friday night.
The irony of that was not lost on me.
“WHAT?!” Came the swift reply. “I hope you don’t get a ticket.”
He came back to my car and handed me my license and registration with a smile. “I’m just going to give you a warning this time, Ma’am. But please watch your speed from now on.”
He pulled back, ready to walk away, but my voice stopped him.
“I just wanted to thank you for all that you do, ” I said. “I appreciate it.”
His eyes widened in total surprise.
I lowered my eyes from his for a moment to watch the other cars driving (very carefully and slowly) past me before continuing.
“I had a cousin who was a cop.”
“What’s his name?”
“His name was David. He was a cop in Pennsylvania. He was killed two years ago when he made a traffic stop on the highway.” I looked back up at him. “So please be careful out there, okay?”
This whole thing was surreal. I hadn’t planned on saying any of this.
He seemed genuinely shocked. I imagine most cops are not thanked for what they do when they pull someone over for speeding. But I needed him to know that I appreciated the fact that he had chosen to live his one life in order to serve and protect.
He nodded. “I will.” A small pause. Then,” My condolences on the death of your cousin. Take care.”
“Thanks. And I will slow down from now on.”
“Please do.” Another smile and then he got into his car and disappeared into the night.
I put my license and registration back where they belonged and texted Jackie one word: “Warning!” before putting my car back into gear and easing back onto the highway.
It was then that I realized that tears had filled my eyes.
It is coming up on two years that my cousin David’s life was taken by a madman with a gun on a dark Pennsylvania highway. I still miss him, still think about him often.
Cops had always intimidated me before David’s funeral. Then I met so many of them in a sea of blue in the funeral home.
During the course of the visiting hours, I had the opportunity to talk with many of them. I listened gratefully to their memories of David and watched helplessly as these grown men in crisp uniforms cried like babies over the loss of one of their own.
Ever since then, I pray without fail for the cops I know personally and for every one of them I see on the road.
Just like I prayed for that young officer’s safety for the rest of the night.