November 6, 2014, is a day that forever changed my life.  On that day at 2:31 PM Amy Panebianco, my wife of 27 years, passed away.  She lived a life of service and, it was apparent as approximately 1,200 people who took time from their schedules to attend her funeral or visitation night.  It was heartwarming.

I have witnessed death as part of being a police officer.  Often observing what appeared to be a strong support system for the remaining family.  However, nothing I have observed anywhere at any time compares to the love and support given to Amy and I by Middleburg.  To that end, I say thank you.  Those words fail to bring the gratitude to the level it should be …but they are the words that I have to use.    

I cannot thank everyone individually in this letter because I’m not sure the list would fit without making this a novel.  However, it is safe to say that so many of you offered letters of support, hugs, tears, funds for her, food, and most of all an outward display of love and affection.  This community made the unbearable…bearable.

I will start with thanking Middleburg as a whole.  I have never been more comfortable anywhere and it is because of you and the nature of this community.  True community spirit is rare and Middleburg has it.  The character of this community extends to more than just the façade or the look of Middleburg…it is in the people.  YOU ARE AWESOME.

One can imagine that in 27 years of marriage there were lots of opportunities to create fond memories.  We did exactly that.  The memories created at the very end of her life were some of the most important. I was blessed to be able to spend almost every day with her as she declined.  The blessing wasn’t in the decline…but in the time we shared.  There was truly nothing left unsaid.

The last few months were difficult but could have been worse if I had to choose to be elsewhere.  I was able to stay by her side because of the graciousness of our Mayor, Betsy Allen Davis and the rest of the town council: Darlene Kirk, Bundles Murdock, Trowbridge Littleton, Kevin Hazard, Kathy Jo Shea, Mark Snyder, and Erik Scheps.  They knew this was time I would never get back…and it meant the world to both Amy and I that they allowed it.

Because I love the town so much it could have been a struggle to stay away.  Worry is sort of part of my job.  However, during the past almost three years now, the police department staff has really become one unit.  We understand the bigger picture and the importance of this community and the vibe it has.  I left the department under the capable and watchful eye of Lt. Mike Prince.  We have worked together on a daily basis since I came to Middelburg and we think alike on so many levels.  I was confident he would do a great job…and he did so thank you Mike.   

Mike didn’t have to do it alone and because he knows it takes team he relied on the rest of the staff to step up and help out.  Officer Heather Fadely took the helm when Mike needed a break as did the rest of the staff as others needed relief.    

In fact, each officer did his or her part to make it possible for my family to have this incredible end of life experience.  So to Officers Tharpe, Hollins, Putnam and our part time staff of Officers Davis and Proffitt…I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I want to thank Marvin, Martha, Cindy, Rhonda, Debbie, and William for helping in the way each of you did.   Again, there were so many more that helped and I cannot name them all.  However, each of you knows who you are and I hope you know what it meant to both Amy and I.    

In an effort to say thank you I want to share the most personal memory and most life changing event I have experienced to date.   Amy’s last minutes of life shared and made possible because of all of you.

The day was spent with my son Scotty, his wife Jenna, Gracie our German shepherd, and me in bed with her and the others at her bedside.  We spent the day talking to her, hugging, kissing her, and telling her how much we loved her.  I held her hand and rubbed her cheek.  At around 2:30 PM her hand started to get cool and her breathing changed.  I turned her head to look her in her eyes and said “it’s ok to go…I love you and thank you for loving me….I love you.”  And at that moment with my son holding her hand, Jenna rubbing her leg, and Gracie on her lap…Amy left this world knowing she was loved and most importantly she was with her family.  Again, thanks to all of you.   

I hope you know how difficult it is to share such a personal event…but I cannot think of a better way to say thank you than to let all of you know what you made possible.  I was blessed to be with her at the end.  Many people do not have that opportunity.  I did and there is nothing that holds a greater value in my life.         

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