Surrounded by pain, I witnessed the meaning of love - Chief Tom Synan
Opinion to the Cincinnati Inquirer
Last year I was in my office when I got a call from a father I had never met, begging me to help him save his daughter, Dominique. Harold Warren pleaded for me to drive the streets of Cincinnati to find her before she overdosed and died.
Chief Tom Synan
Published April 20th, 2018
There has been so much pain when it comes to heroin. So much suffering that it can be tough to find any semblance of love in the experiences of those impacted by the epidemic.
I have never heard such desperation. “I don’t want my daughter to die,” he said. A simple, reasonable plea any real father would have for his child. I was bound legally by what I could and could not do for him. But I have to be honest, it would have been worth losing my badge to make sure this father did not have to mourn the loss of his baby girl. It took over 30 people and agencies fighting every day to keep her alive. We didn't end Dominique's addiction, but we ensured Harold didn't become a grieving father.
Sadly, this father-daughter love story is nearing an end. You see, Harold is dying. He was diagnosed with stage four cancer a few months ago, and it has progressed. As of this writing, he was still clinging to life ever so slightly.
Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan and Harold look over at Dominique at the start of her trial. She smiled back. (Photo: The Enquirer/ Liz Dufour)
Dominique Warren, 18, has been using heroin since she was 12. Plenty of people are trying to help her, but so far, she hasn't been able to resist the streets of Cincinnati. Liz Dufour
Harold was a simple, hardworking, religious man, which made it hard for anyone not to like him. I could never win an argument or debate with him because he would always break it down to its simplest form: "Chief, I love my daughter and I don’t want her to die.” I admittedly would drop what I was doing when he needed help making sure Dominique was OK.
We debated religion and he often asked me to pray for him and his daughter. But I stubbornly believed in faith through acts of humility, compassion and sacrifice over worshiping by words alone. In the end, we were both right and it was confirmed in our respect for one another and the bond with Dominique, who others might have shunned, vilified or disregarded as unworthy of such love because of her addiction.
|Dominique and her father, Harold, after she was released from jail.|
The Enquirer/Liz Dufour
Harold would call me for advice, wisdom and guidance. From the very first telephone call, he believed I would somehow have the answers to make things better. His unwavering faith made me believe I could help and was often the inspiration for me to crusade for a change in how society views and deals with addiction. He was the teacher and I was the student learning about grace which can only be found in truly unconditional love.
Not just the word love, not just the happiness of love, but love that can only be taught by the angels of God disguised as the simplest of human beings randomly placed in our lives, not for their own wishes to be granted, but for all of humanity to benefit. Harold held tightly to this love through pain, suffering, sacrifice, desperation and the unfairness of life. He never let go, even though his daughter had turned to prostitution, drugs and manipulation. He didn't condone any of it and despised every part of it. But just like the God he worshiped, he extended grace and did not judge Dominique; he just simply loved her.
Today, I am heartbroken. I am comforted only by my gratefulness that soon he will no longer have to suffer as a witness to heroin addiction. My soul has been transformed after being touched by God through a simple man and father who taught me how to love my way through the ugliness, despair, pain and tragedy that drug addiction inflicts. Heroin did not take away the one using this time, it helped take away the one who loved the user. Hopefully, Harold can help us all realize the power of love.
Thank you, Harold, for your friendship, love and wisdom. Your actions spoke loudly about the true definition of love.
Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan is a member of Hamilton County Heroin Coalition and a speaker for the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.