I think that being in law enforcement has afforded me a great chance to meet all sorts of people. I've had deep conversations with crack addicted women who sell their bodies for ten dollars. I've met several celebrities and talked with Tom Watson for almost a half hour one night. Some of the most intense discussions I've ever had were with a Baptist Minister who used to come out and do ride-alongs with me when I was a beat deputy.
I've always tried to value those conversations, and learn from everyone I meet.
And, one of the things I've learned along the way, it's people like Miss Harriet that keep the world turning.
She's older than me, has short hair, soft eyes, and the sweetest southern voice. I doubt she has ever met a stranger in her life.
And she is an assistant coroner.
It takes a special person to work for the coroner's office. The life altering moment that you hear that a loved one has passed away, well, that is just a Tuesday at the office for a coroner. They have to deal with everything from an infant who suddenly dies from SIDS to a ninety-five year old with four daughters who lived a full life. They are constantly seeing the one thing that most of us are afraid of.
And what makes Miss Harriet so great, is how she deals with everyone.
When Miss Harriet arrives at a scene, no matter who has passed away, the first thing she does is hug each deputy. She says she does this to make sure that we are wearing our ballistic vests, but that isn't true. Her hugs are pretty legendary within our Sheriff's Office, probably because she makes us all feel special. Then she moves onto to the EMS and Fire Personnel if they are there. Once she has hugged all the first responders, and said very softly, "Hey darling," to each of us, then she goes to the body. After she has made a quick examination she usually goes to the family, usually strangers to her, and immediately hugs them.
Then she says, "I'm so sorry, I'm just so sorry." She talks with the family and explains what the process is going to be, and if she is taking the body she always says, "I'm going to take good care of him, I promise." I've seen her say that to a grieving mother who lost her four year old son, and a daughter who lost her elderly mother. It doesn't matter what has happened, she treats everyone the same.
So, why am I writing about her? Well a few months ago we were at a scene together and one of the investigators asked me about my book. Miss Harriet told me she wanted to read it. I lied and told her I would put a copy in my work car and give her one the next time I saw her. I think I was a bit hesitant at first because there was so much sex in the book and I didn't want her to think less of me.
Then I saw her again. Right after she hugged me she asked for her copy. I told her I had forgot to put one in my car. We talked a bit more and I said, "You know, my book is kind of racy. Is that going to be ok?" She said, "Darling, I could use a bit of racy in my life."
A few weeks went by and I was overseeing a suicide investigation. It was a Monday and the victim had died the week before. There were three dogs in the house and they had turned over the trash cans looking for food. Needless to say, the smell was pretty awful. I walked outside and there was Miss Harriet smoking a Virginia Slim cigarette. I was shocked. "Miss Harriet! I've never seen you smoke before!" She smiled and said, "Only on the real stinky ones, darling. Only on the real stinky ones. Now, where is my book?"
At that point I had decided to give her one, but still hadn't put a copy in my car. She gave me a hard time about it. The next day I was telling Christina about her, and how she wanted to read my book. Christina listened, and then reminded me to get a copy for my work car. I forgot that night. Then, a week later, Christina asked, "Have you put a copy of your book in your work car yet?"
So I did, and of course the next night we had a drowning at the lake and Miss Harriet was on duty.
She called me the next night. "Darling, I'm so proud of you! I couldn't put it down! I read it all night, I can't wait for the next one!"
I've received a good bit of praise over the last year. And I can't put into words how much each compliment has meant to me. I won't try to with Miss Harriet's either. I just hope I've been able to express to everyone, including her, how much that little phone call means to me.
I've learned and experienced a lot over the past forty one years. And Miss Harriet has taught me so much about being a good person just by being herself.
There seems to be so much hate in the world right now. Even our own county seems so divisive, especially with this election looming over us. But it's people like Miss Harriet, whose comforted hundreds of grieving family members in their darkest hour, that remind me of what this life is all about.
So thanks for reading my book, Miss Harriet, but more so thanks for just being you and all you've done for our community. It's people like you that keep the world turning, I'm quite sure of it.