Raised with a devout Roman Catholic background, she felt like a failure. The disastrous marriage soured her on romance, and she dedicated herself to finishing her nursing degree and gaining a career in health care. Marrying someone else and having children was not on her radar.
Still working at El Centro Regional Medical Center’s ER, she was able to put herself through Imperial Valley College’s prestigious nursing program. At the same time, she reconnected with Robert, who was a correctional officer, and they began to see each other as “just friends.”
“I know Robert, and I know nothing more could happen between us,” she told herself at the time. She thought he would not seek anything more than a genuine friendship.
Their shifts overlapped, and he made it a habit to bring her a store-bought coffee, one of her favorite vices, every night when he got off at 10 p.m.
She confided in him about her angst over her first marriage, and they talked of their goals. He told her of his vision to one day become a Border Patrol agent. While working at the prison was a great job, he was an outdoor-type man, and being inside all day was getting to him, he said.
Soon, they began to date, and realized their close friendship was the perfect start to a relationship.
This continued for seven years until Robert began pushing for marriage. But Rosalie resisted. He countered, arguing it wasn’t fair he was penalized because of another man’s mistakes. Finally, they planned to marry after he went to New Mexico to attend the Border Patrol academy. Desiring to see other areas outside of the Valley, she registered as a traveling nurse.
Her first assignment, at Los Angeles County Hospital rehab center, was a tough one caring for quadriplegics and paraplegics. Her heart broke as she watched many of the patients’ loved ones stop coming by to visit or support them. That job, as well as one in El Centro working with cancer patients, gave her a heavy dose of compassion and gratefulness for the blessings she had.
The couple kept a long distance romance going with Robert flying into LAX to see her on his weekends off, and she would alternately head to a meeting point halfway to New Mexico to spend time with him.
They finally married in 2007 and settled in the San Diego area. That same year, their son Robert Matthew was born prematurely. His middle name, the one by which he is called, means “gift from God.” To Rosalie’s consternation, she became pregnant with their daughter less than a year later. But Robert was ecstatic, she said, and calmed her fears of two babies in diapers with his delight in having another child.
Because of high housing costs, the couple made the decision to move back to the Valley to be close to family and bought a new house in a development with streets named, ironically, after fallen law enforcement officers.
The first months of 2009 were idyllic. Both of them turned 30 that year, and they threw each other elaborate birthday parties, celebrating with their friends and their children. Everything was perfect, just as Rosalie had always dreamed.
The smallest details of that sad Thursday night in July remain etched in Rosalie’s memory. It began just like any other evening that Robert worked the swing shift. In preparation for Kayla’s upcoming first birthday party, Rosalie was writing out invitations, and they were fanned out all over the dining room table while the ink dried. A vase full of red roses that Robert had bought for her from Costco graced the room with color and fragrance.
Between 10 and 11 p.m., she received a cryptic text from one of her friends asking if she was alone. When Rosalie answered “yes,” the friend asked if she could come by. Assuming it was because she needed to confide or talk, Rosalie graciously invited her to come on over, even though it was late.
The loud knock at midnight echoed throughout the house. Expecting her friend, she swung open the door and spotted lots of cars, a sea of green Border Patrol uniforms and the El Centro deputy chief standing there.
Sitting her on the couch, they broke the news that Robert had been involved in a shooting. At first, she did not grasp the seriousness of it, and asked to go to the hospital to see him immediately. The answering looks on their faces told her the truth.
In the beginning, she was angry with God, she said. As faithful church attendees, Robert and Rosalie went to as many services as possible and were raising the kids in a life of Christian faith.
“Why, God?” she questioned. “If we’ve always trusted in you?” But with time, she began to understand that life is not perfect and things happen out of human control.
For many hours, she prayed on her knees. “God, you allowed this. And if you allowed this, then you're going to have to get us through this.” Later, she found a bookmark in Robert’s Bible with scripture marked: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.”
With faith, she left the investigation and logistics of finding the men responsible for Robert’s death in the hands of law enforcement.