Over the last couple of years, while working on a grant project in our community that aims to reduce alcohol related crashes among our young people, I've met a lot of good cops. No offense to any of them, but I've met none better than Sergeant Scott Menzies of the Ashland Police Department. From the very first conversation I had with Scott, it became clear to me this was a man committed to keeping my family and the Ashland community safe, especially when it came to protecting us from a senseless tragedy like those that occur at the hands of drunk drivers.
Several months ago I was headed out of our neighborhood as Sgt. Menzies was pulling in. I really didn't have anything specific to talk to him about, but for some reason I drove up to the next road and turned around and went back, hoping to catch him for a few minutes of conversation. He's just one of those guys you know has the potential to make your day, even if it's with just a couple seconds of small talk. This day, I hit the jackpot.
Fortunately, Sgt. Menzies was taking care of business with one of my neighbors, so I didn't have to stalk him on another street and look like a, well, a stalker. I pulled into my own driveway and waited on him to finish. When he did, I went to greet him. What ensued was the most wonderful conversation I've ever had with the man, and one that will ironically keep my heart sad for some time to come.
Sgt. Menzies first told me about a grant his department had secured that allowed them to purchase a go-cart that would simulate the effects of an impaired driver. Scott had worked hard on securing this grant for the department and was clearly excited about the impact it would have on making our community safer.
To read the Richmond Times Dispatch article about the grant and Scott's role in it, click the picture below:
Ashland police Sgt. Scott Menzies demonstrates the department’s new go-kart that can simulate the effects of drunken driving. He is trailed by officer Chip Watts, who is operating a safety remote.
When we finished talking about the grant, we began talking about our families. I didn't know much about Scott's family before that day. I knew a lot after. I found out he had a wife and three young kids, all of them about the age of our boys. He talked about how much they loved doing things together outdoors: camping trips, hikes, bicycling. I told him about my wife Katie's "GOING" outings, where she organized events to get local families to spend time together outdoors. He got excited about being a part of one of the upcoming adventures.
I gained an added layer of appreciation for Sgt. Menzies that day. It became clear to me protecting my family was so important to him because of just how much he loved his.
Sgt. Menzies' family is smaller today than it was that day. His wife, Meg Menzies, was hit by an alleged drunk driver this week while jogging, and died shortly thereafter. All of those outings he glowed about will never be the same.
I went to the funeral home this past week to pay my respects to Sgt. Menzies and his family. When visitors walked into the area where the family was gathered they were greeted by a beautiful picture of the Menzies family. Five beautiful faces lying in a circle on the ground. Each one of their infectious smiles looking up at the camera. Five faces. One family. The way that family was supposed to be.
When I left the funeral home I sat in my truck for a minute and thought of the destructiveness of it all. I thought of how it would feel if my wife was suddenly stolen from our boys, and from me. I reflected on a conversation I had with a friend over Christmas who asked me if I ever got mad at God; was it even OK to get mad at God. I said yes to both.
I've discovered it's pretty easy to give someone else permission to get mad at God when you believe the occasion for you to do so just isn't going to happen, or at least not anytime soon. But as I thought about the Menzies family picture, of the missing face, of the smiles that had been wiped away by waves of sadness and longing, I got mad. I got incredibly mad at God. This was a tragedy that was completely avoidable. Maybe we couldn't beat the incredibly long odds that the paths of a jogger and a drunk driver would cross at just the precise second on just the precise square foot of pavement on an earth filled with hours and space, but God could have. So why didn't he?
One of the beautiful things that has come out of Meg Menzies' sudden death has been the outpouring of love from the community: The Ashland community, the running community, the community of people who are a part of a strong family and can so easily feel the hurt of this one suddenly broken. Today, many of these folks gathered together to run. It was one of Meg Menzies' passions. So I strapped on my tennis shoes and took out on my own run. Partly in support of Meg and Scott and their families. Largely just to think, to deal with my anger.
I've never seen so many runners in Ashland. And this town is FULL of them. Many of them were wearing their Megsmiles banners and signs and t-shirts. All of them waved and said good morning. There was an uncommon spirit of good will in the cold and crisp air.
Out among so many runners, my mind was led to a letter in the bible that Paul wrote to the Corinthians. In it (1 Corinthians 9:25-26), he says, "Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air."
As I've read so many stories from people who knew Meg Menzies well - and I did not - it's become clear to me that she trained for the race of life much like she did for the countless and presitgious running events she participated in, including the Boston Marathon. Meg seemed to understand that although the medals and trophies she received for running were nice, they were perishable. But it's clear to me she drew great strength from her race training and poured it into her children's sunday school classes and other classrooms she taught in. It's clear she was equally determined to treat every person she encountered with love. (Countless people have called her the nicest person they ever met) It's clear she loved being a mother and a wife. It's clear Meg Menzies' eyes were on the ultimate and imperishable prize. One she rightly earned. One she is celebrating today.
By the time I finished my run today, I wasn't much more clear as to why God would take a family's angel before they were ready for her to leave. But one thing was crystal clear. I know what God has done with his newest angel.
Soon after she arrived, God said, Meg, there's a couple of people trying to put together a memorial run for you this Saturday. They have the best of intentions, but they're thinking too small. I want you to coordinate this one. Make it something special.
Well God, I want to tell you, your new angel did good. The number of runners who officially signed up to run in her honor today was at last count over 80,000. Many are agreeing to financially support Scott and his family. Many of them have shared stories about how Meg loved you and shared your love with everyone she came in contact with. The truth is, you're seeing the work of an angel who has been training to be one for as long as many people can remember.
But I guess you knew that - didn't you. You've seen it. And I guess it's quite possible today was an assignment only one angel was capable of pulling off.
Maybe this running community knows some things us non or occasional runners don't. Maybe a long run doesn't always help you get over your anger, but it can certainly bring about some better understanding.
My heart hurts for Sgt. Menzies. He's a good man. I have no doubt he's in the right community of family and friends to walk him and his children through the painful days and years ahead. And where we can't, I have a feeling he's been assigned the perfect angel.
1/18/2014 06:48:02 am
I have known the Cross/Menzies family for a long time. I worked with Meg, Scott and his sister Kelly at Bundle of Joy, Glen Allen. I will miss Meg greatly. Walking into the funeral home and seeing Meg's family broke my heart and Kelly came out and saw me standing in line and I got the biggest hug, then I saw Scott and I did not know what to say (that doesn't happen often), I just hugged him and told him to hold on tight as long as he needed to, I let him know that if he ever needed anything and I mean anything I would be there as fast as I can. I hugged his mom and told her that if Scott needed anything to let me know and then I hugged Scott again, I did not want to let go. I will pray for this family every day and I know that Meg is in heaven looking down and smiling at everyone that ran/walked in her honor today.
1/18/2014 08:29:18 am
This made me cry so much ...I couldn't even read through the tears. I worked with Meg at bundle of joy as well and meg was one of the nicest people I have ever meet. I dont think I can remember any day I was in contact with her that she didnt have a smile on her face! (Big bright beautiful simile). You will be greatly missed Meg Menzies but I know god has great plans for you to watch other your family! Be their guardian angel!!! We love you!!!♥♥♥♥
1/18/2014 09:55:31 am
1/18/2014 10:18:05 am
Absolutely beautiful! Thank you
1/18/2014 10:27:00 am
This reminds me of a story of a young beautiful woman that was killed in a head on car accident 10 years ago this summer. She was a runner, a graduate of University of Richmond, and a mother of three young children. Her husband was a local doctor. He was one of the most caring and loving doctor beloved by many in the community. He was not a high profile police officer but a humble mild mannered doctor who saved many lives. When she passed the doctor was devistated and his friends and family came together to support him and his three young children. It didn't make international news. The running community didn't come out by the thousands in support. This brave man carried on with his profession continuing to be a caring and loving doctor to a small community who loved and cared for him. These three children are now well adjusted kind teenagers. The woman who died in that tragic accident was Claudia Carlson. The Doctor was Michael Carlson. As we know this is the man that made a tragic mistake last Monday morning. He is not a drunk, he is not a stain on society he is a man who made a mistake. We need to remember not to be the one to throw the stone. Dr. Carlson suffered a similar tragedy 10 years ago. I hope the Menzies family can look to themselves and their Christian values and forgive this man for making a mistake. We should all pray for the Menzies family and the Carlson family as they go through this tragic time in their lives. All six children have lost their mothers at very young ages and three will probably lose their father. May God look over them all.
1/18/2014 11:16:45 am
May God bless the Menzies family and the Carlsons. Only He can know why this week's terribly ironic tragedy occurred. May Mike and his family continue to know the quiet support they've always had
1/18/2014 12:31:41 pm
John, I think your post is a bit inappropriate.
1/18/2014 12:51:00 pm
Ah there's the stone thrower. Thank you Robin for your opinion.
1/20/2014 05:19:09 am
1/18/2014 10:46:16 am
Beautifully written........thank you for sharing.....God Bless the Menzies
1/18/2014 10:48:49 am
While that may be true, despite what was written in the paper...after he, the humble doctor, made said "mistake" he did NOT render aid to the wounded woman on the ground- wounded by him. No, he tried to leave the scene multiple times and was only stopped by her husband. So, While I have every sympathy for his children and family, any respect or sympathy I may have had for him are gone. Not to mention that he was headed to work as a "good doctor," "healing many, " under the influence. Yeah, model citizen. And not too belittle his experience 10 years ago, he is in fact engaged to be married (which is fine and appropriate, by all means), but it's not like he has been home alone, wallowing in his grief recently, drinking himself into an oblivion at his loss.
1/18/2014 10:51:01 am
Sorry for the anger, and not to take away from the author's amazing words!
1/18/2014 12:34:09 pm
E, it's ok to be angry … the post was inappropriate and rubbed me wrong as well. We need to focus on Scott and their precious children. A very difficult day emotionally.
1/18/2014 12:58:26 pm
It's ok to be angry. It is a very emotional time for everybody. I am just grateful that you found my words amazing and appreciate the sentiment.
1/18/2014 04:24:39 pm
This isn't an appropriate site for you to comment! Let the cross/ Menzies family grieve without your crude insensitive comments!
1/18/2014 12:31:52 pm
I didn't know Meg, but pray that her husband and children will feel the love of a God, friends and family holding them up in the difficult days and years ahead.. I also don't know the doctor or his family. I do know that people are not black and white or all good or all bad. I live with an alcoholic, a wonderful, kind, generous man. I live in fear that someday I may not be there to say hand me the keys on a day when there is a relapse, as recovery is a daily battle. How many good people talk or text or...while they drive. The driver needs to take responsibility for what happened, but it is also necessary to remember that few are pure good or pure evil.
1/18/2014 07:24:20 pm
I am grateful for those who have responded to my post with kind reflections of Meg and Scott Menzies, and prayers for all of her family and friends. That was the only intention I had.
1/18/2014 08:46:13 pm
Thank you for taking a moment to share a wonderful reflection from your perspective. I grew up going to school with your wife and have now found myself working along side Scott's department, protecting our county. We will continue to make this community better and safer for all of our families with Meg watching over us.
1/18/2014 09:21:00 pm
Hey Matt. A pleasure to (virtually) meet you. Thank you for all you do. God bless you my friend. And I'll be praying an angel has your back.
1/18/2014 10:11:43 pm
God Bless Meg and her Family. So sorry for their loss. Know that Meg is still with you and will be looking over you and looking out for you always.
1/18/2014 10:20:05 pm
I think it's important to note that the Carlson family and friends are also suffering. He suffered a terrible tragedy at the loss of his life. No doubt he's suffering now as he grapples with his actions.
1/18/2014 10:21:00 pm
Sorry, wife not "life"
1/19/2014 04:07:56 am
Certainly agree Rod
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