Ah, Thanksgiving. Football is great. Food is overpriced. And no matter what I was taught in elementary school, Pilgrims and Native Americans did not celebrate the holiday by congregating at an outdoor table in late November, sharing food in mutual admiration.
But the gratitude is real.
I know because I feel it every year. And because just the other night I came across a social media post from Kristen Glasser, the widow of slain police officer David Glasser. Fill my heart with love and inspiration.
“Happy Birthday in Heaven Dave! Today we celebrated you with friends and family. I even took a picture of Fireball for you. I miss you so much! I love you forever!”
Glasser’s death in 2016 shook our community. He was responding to a domestic incident in the middle of a weekday afternoon and was attacked by a suspect who was armed and waiting in a parked car. Glasser was 35 years old at the time and leaves behind a loving wife and two children.
“There’s a misconception that it gets easier,” Glasser said. “It doesn’t work. You just have to learn to live with the grief, absorb the grief, let it become a part of your life. You learn to turn it on.”
Glasser was a big sports fan. He loved the Cardinals. He loved listening to sports radio. He was a big guy, charismatic and cool, the kind of fan that other fans would rally around. His death shook us all.
But her recent post has a different vibe. It included photos from a cemetery where Glasser’s family and friends gathered for their annual balloon release on David’s birthday, the cathartic act of scrawling messages of love on balloons and sending them skyward. And yes, there were fireball shots.
“It’s weird,” she said. “Some years it’s still hard and I’ll cry when we release those balloons. This year it was more of a joyous thing.
“You take it day by day. You persist. Light slowly begins to shine and you laugh again. We’re in a really good place now. It’s nice. I am happy. And my kids are doing very well.”
After Glasser’s death, the Cardinals rallied strongly around the cause and Glasser’s family, honoring the fallen officer. My band organized a benefit concert dedicating Foo Fighters’ ‘My Hero’ to her late husband. I remember Kristen leaving in the middle of that performance. Maybe we were out of tune. Or maybe the emotion and sense of loss was too much.
Either way, my heart ached for her and her family.
It took six years for the light to return. That’s why her post was so powerful. It is a testament to the strength of family, the strength of eternal love and the resilience of the human spirit. Credit to the community that stood by Kristen in her time of need. It’s proof that we can lift each other up, help each other to a better place.
“We’ve been blessed with the amount of support we’ve received,” she said. “Because it was so public and involved the police department, the community was there for us. It was overwhelming in a good way. I think of other widows who have lost their husbands in different ways. And if they don’t have that support, it just breaks my heart.”
If the term is six years, then Casey Langan has a long way to go. Her journey has just begun.
Her husband, Mike, was also a die-hard sports fan, omnipresent on Twitter. He loved the Bills because his mother came from New York. He loved the Dodgers because his father came from California.
“He held onto them for dear life,” Casey said.
Mike Langen also loved sports talk radio. He regularly thanked his loved ones for helping him through a particularly difficult week, and there were a lot of them. He even called me his “hero” in the last message I got from him, but I knew better. He was sending the same message to all the hosts at Arizona Sports.
He was a good soul who did as much for us as we did for him. He also struggled with mental health issues, suffering from extreme social anxiety and depression. He suffered a series of physical setbacks earlier in the year, contracting COVID-19, breaking his leg and later breaking his wrist. Unbeknownst to his wife, he begins to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, coping in ways that eventually lead to his death.
Mike texted Casey at 7:40pm on the night of October 20, saying he loved her and would be home in an hour. By 9:10 Mike hadn’t returned and Casey knew something was terribly wrong.
He never made it home, leaving behind a widow and four children: Riley, 16, Brady, 12, Colby, 10, and Eleanor, 8.
Just like Glasser, his death shook those in the close-knit world of Valley sports fans.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” she said. “The kids are doing much better. It’s gotten to the point where there’s less crying and less emotional stuff. But it’s so weird. And it’s so new. I walk outside and see my husband’s truck and my heart sinks. I have to stop texting him about 100 times every day.
“The kids and I are just figuring this thing out together. My 16 year old was amazing. He makes sure the doors are locked at night, making sure all the little things are done. He is so on top of things. And that night my daughter and I went out and ate cheeseburgers and listened to Michael’s favorite band. We just sang and cried.”
After Mike’s death, Casey was amazed to find that he had over 5,000 followers on Twitter. A GoFundMe account in his name has raised over $15,000, which has been a godsend for Casey and her children. You can find the link here.
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the love, empathy, and strong sense of community in this transient, crazy, divisive sports town. I hope Casey Langan finds the same strength that helped Kristen Glasser rise on her journey back to the brink of normalcy. And that after six years, she also sends balloons to heaven with a sad smile, raising a toast in honor of her husband.
Contact Bickley at [email protected] Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6am to 10am on 98.7 FM the Arizona sports station.