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At Christmas, the gifts of help and hope

State trooper Kyle Deatherage 32 St. Jacob Ill. was killed line duty  November when he was struck by truck

State trooper Kyle Deatherage, 32, of St. Jacob, Ill. was killed in the line of duty in November when he was struck by a truck during a routine traffic stop. | Provided photo

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Updated: January 26, 2013 6:17AM



A Christmas letter . . .

It’s CHRISTMAS AGAIN, thank God.

It’s also been a tough year.

While our country dangled from a “fiscal cliff” — and continues to — diplomats were slain abroad, a storm devastated the eastern shore, and innocent children and their teachers were slaughtered in an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Yet in the midst of such horror and the limbo of agony, comes a letter from the wife of State Trooper Kyle Deatherage, of Downstate St. Jacob, who was killed in November when he was struck by a truck during a routine traffic stop in Litchfield — shortly after lending a helping hand to New Jersey’s victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Written by his young widow, Sarah, the mother of his 4-year-old daughter, Kaylee, and baby son, Camden, it is a missive of hope transcending sadness and loss at this time of year.

So I thought I’d share the letter she wrote to her “Illinois State Police family”:

“From the moment I was informed of Kyle’s death, my family and I were, and continue to be, embraced by the arms of the Illinois State Police.

I believe most spouses of law enforcement officers create an invisible wall to block thoughts of what could happen. I was no different. I understood and accepted the risks so Kyle could work his dream job, although not really thinking anything would happen.

On the morning of November 26, 2012, that wall came crashing down. It left me with the sickening reality that Kyle is not coming home. I know he would have done everything in his power to remain with me and our children; however, he simply did not have a choice.

In the words of a friend, “everything went perfectly wrong.”

My hope for all of you, Kyle’s law enforcement family, is that you move forward with your lives and careers with a new found appreciation for life.

Be grateful for each day God brings you safely home to your families. As for me and my children, we too will move forward. Think twice about your own mortality. Don’t take it for granted; it will humble you.

Most importantly, remember you are part of an amazing family. Director [Hiram] Grau and the men and women of the ISP have gone above and beyond, both personally and professionally, to guide me and my children through this transition and to give Kyle the goodbye he richly deserved.

The ISP Honor Guard was perfectly organized and professional, yet sincere. I know many of them stood watch with a heavy heart. I was honored to have them lead Kyle on his last journey. The motorcycles, squad cars, and officers from near and far were breathtaking, and Kyle’s rider-less motorcycle led them graciously on that last ride.

Our dearest friends in the ISP, and out of state Troopers and local law enforcement we have never met, made Kyle’s sendoff absolutely incredible. So whether you stood watch for my husband or sent loving thoughts and prayers our way, I thank you. As Kyle’s brother, Kenny, said at the funeral, Kyle was all about “lights and sirens” and the goodbye he was given, although much too soon, was perfect.

I pray that wall will never again come crashing down on the ISP. However, should that happen, I hope each of you will find peace in knowing that our families will be embraced and their loved one’s memory will be forever honored.

Love, Sarah, Kaylee, and Camden Deatherage”

A Christmas letter:
Part II...

This is the story about another letter ... a story I’ve written before ... a story about Santa Claus — and the dreaded dead reckoning when your kid asks: “Is there really a Santa Claus?”

For all those who have faced such an inquiry, I have a story — and an update.

Pay attention.

Back in 1997, I wrote a Santa story about an old pal named Steve Crews, who had a son named Sam.

It seemed Sam had learned “the truth” about Santa Claus . . . right before the big night.

Steve was very worried about how his son was feeling about this new turn in his life.

So, on Christmas morning, Sam found a note from “Santa.”

The note — actually written by Sam’s loving and concerned dad — struck a chord in the Christmas hearts of many Sneed readers, who tacked it on their refrigerator, grabbed a hanky and read the note to their children.

So before we get to the ending, let’s begin at the beginning with Santa’s first letter to Sam, which was written more than a dozen years ago by Steve Crews, a former newspaper reporter, advertising whiz, brilliant wordsmith and master storyteller.

“Dear Sam,

Your dad stayed up last night to tell me that you now know as much about me as I do about you.

Well, good. I’m glad you asked.

And don’t worry, no child ever really leaves me. Ask your mom. Ask your dad.

They know I don’t live in the North Pole (too cold). They know I don’t ride in a sleigh (too dangerous). Still, they love me, and so will you, even 50 years from now.

Oh, and what do you think happened last night just as you were asking about me?

Why, a baby was born out in Kalispell, Montana.

That’s right, just as you were putting aside your belief, a brand-new child was born who can put it to good use.

So long as that keeps happening, I’ll never be out of a job.

Sam, I want to wish you a wonderful life. If you don’t mind, I will continue to drop by on future Christmases, just to make sure you’re OK.

Love, Santa”

Here’s the update: Santa is retired and living in Arizona. His son, Sam, is now working in advertising in Chicago. Merry Christmas... everyone.

Sneedlings . . .

Tuesday’s birthdays: Sissy Spacek, 63; Annie Lennox, 58, and Bill Zwecker, ageless and priceless.



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