By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"I don't know if I should say this or not," she says, her voice shaky, her hands pressed together in front of her mouth. As she sits in her modest Fort Worth home, Lydia Galvan recalls what she found days after her husband, a Dallas police officer, was killed in a car crash so violent that his body was ripped apart and his face mangled beyond recognition. So gruesome was David Galvan's death that police never granted her wish to see him one last time. And later, at the funeral home, one of her three sons had to restrain her as she desperately tried to open the casket to say goodbye to their 27 years together.
"I didn't get to see nothing," she says, in a tone laced with the bitterness of what she believes is an irreparable injustice. Short and hefty, she sounds and looks younger than her 53 years. Maybe it's because of the extra weight that softens the edges of her face, or the "Winnie the Pooh" T-shirt she's wearing today. Or because of how, without any self-consciousness and with the utmost adoration, this homemaker still refers to the father of her four children by his nickname, "Big David."
More than six years have passed since the center of her life -- her "Big David" -- was ripped from her. It was then, one late morning, that Senior Cpl. David Galvan was rushing down a street in his patrol car to aid a fellow cop in pursuit of a stolen vehicle. He never made it. As his car sped by at 80 mph, a woman pulled out of an apartment-complex driveway and clipped the rear of his vehicle. In the tiniest fraction of a second, Galvan fought frantically to regain control of his squad car. It swerved some 300 feet before ramming into a utility pole, where his Chevrolet Caprice was shredded in two. He died instantly -- at 11:32 a.m., according to when the watch he was wearing stopped ticking.
If all Lydia Galvan wanted was to see her husband one last time, she believes "Big David" granted her wish, if only in part, following his funeral. It was then, three days after the crash, that she and her family visited the site on West Ledbetter Drive in southwest Oak Cliff where his 48 years ended. There she saw something both heartbreaking and reassuring that she cherishes to this very day.
"I had found some part of his body," she says, sitting on a sofa in a small back room, where faded photos of the children she and her husband raised together adorn the wood-paneled wall behind her.
Three raw, red pieces of flesh, she says, had been overlooked by the mortuary service that police had employed to clean up the wreck. There the remains rested near the base of the utility pole. "Like pieces of meat," she says, her mouth slightly drawn in disgust as she holds her hands up to convey the size, similar to a football.
"My sister-in-law found one and buried it there. My son found one and buried it there."
As for the third one, she says nothing...yet.
"After he got killed, I didn't get to see him," she says, her voice breaking. "I don't know," she adds, the tears now streaming down her face. "It's just..." She stops, shakes her head, and in a pained, subdued tone, lets out what sounds like an "ooh." Then, silently, she wipes away the tears with her hand.
"It still hurts," she says. "It will always hurt because we were married 27 years, and that's half of our life together."
Her husband's presence is everywhere. On a case rest some framed photos of David Galvan. There's one of him with his wife. Another with his children. One, in black and white, shows him during his days in the U.S. Marines. Near the case hang the medals and other awards he received, some posthumously, as a police officer. And by another wall stands a large eagle, carved from wood, which Mrs. Galvan commissioned for $3,000 as a way of commemorating her husband's love of the bird. The sculpture, which took the artist a year and a half to finish, easily looms over Mrs. Galvan's frame of barely 5 feet.
But for Mrs. Galvan, there is no place more sacred to her husband's memory than that stretch of road where his life ended.
"For me, he stayed there," she says. "I don't know if I can tell you this or not," she continues, in an almost childlike tone, as if confessing something, "but I have one in the icebox. A piece of meat. Of David. That's the only thing I have from David.
"Do you want to see it?" she suddenly asks, smiling as if she's about to share a hidden treasure. Every few months, Mrs. Galvan takes it out of the box, "just to check on it," she explains, in a voice that reveals both Texan and Mexican inflections. "I just see it like it's something special to me. Like if David would have said, 'Here, Babe, I leave this for you.'"