It was an indelible sight. There, in the parking lot of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, a woman waited for Michelle Patrick to emerge from a limo and head inside for the funeral of her husband, Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick.
The woman approached. The two spoke. Then, they shared a long embrace.
Minutes later, I discovered that the woman who came to share in Patrick’s grief was Gail Bergeron, widow of Maplewood police Sgt. Joe Bergeron, who was shot and killed in May 2010 while investigating a carjacking.
Their meeting was no coincidence. They are now sisters in a club that nobody would ever want to belong to — a club of survivors.
Officials with the Minnesota chapter of COPS, Concerns Of Police Survivors, encouraged the meeting as a way to begin helping Michelle Patrick and her daughters on a journey few others will ever understand.
Kevin Torgerson, honor guard commander for the Law Enforcement Memorial Association and a captain with the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office, said COPS is there to support to family members of police officers who have died on duty.
“None of us can ever sit there and say ‘I know how you feel,’ ” he said. “We don’t know what that broken heart feels like.”
COPS members do.
Torgerson said COPS will enlist two members of the Mendota Heights Police Department to be liaisons to the Patrick family in the weeks and months ahead. They will be conduits of information, shoulders to cry on. They will help navigate the sure-to-be-difficult days to come.
“If the family had to do this on their own, they would be deluged,” Torgerson said.
Watching the grief shared by so many at Patrick’s funeral on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but think back to the other police funerals I — or my colleagues — have covered. Officers such as Tom Decker, Richard Crittenden, Gerald Vick. … Tim Jones and Ron Ryan Jr.
“We’ve been doing these far too often over too many years,” Torgerson said.
And now, another family knows the gravity of that grief.