Archive for John Petropoulos Memorial Fund Posts

published in Death, Family, Fatherhood, Grief, John Petropoulos Memorial Fund, Peace, Souls by Maryanne | March 14, 2017 | 2 Comments

The Invisible Connection – When Our Heart & Soul Knows Something Before We Do

 

“I’d like to imagine we are all of us a part of a many-chambered construct that love is continually building.”

– Rebecca Gummere, O Magazine, April 2017

At the end of February, I spent a very powerful work weekend in a Mississauga hotel.

The Threads of Life charity, that I am a volunteer with, was holding its annual speakers bureau training session. The mission of Threads of Life is to help families heal through a community of support and to promote the elimination of life-altering workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.

I was getting trained as one of their speakers. I was developing a slightly different presentation that incorporated the story of John’s death as well as the workplace safety messages of both Threads of Life and the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund.

There were 12 speakers getting trained and 4 staff members from Threads of Life doing the training. Each of us speakers, and most of the staff, shared a common thread: we had all been significantly impacted in some way by a workplace fatality, serious injury or life-altering illness.

So as perhaps you can imagine, it was a rather emotionally intense weekend. However, since I have been delivering presentations about John’s death for quite a few years now, I don’t tend to get emotional during my presentation anymore.

As the presenter, I take the audience on an emotional journey for the purpose of leading to behaviour change. But I am very cognizant of not personally re-experiencing all the sorrow, hurt and trauma each and every time I deliver a presentation.

There wouldn’t be much left of me if I let that happen over and over again.

However, I do still have a heart 🙂 and I must say that listening to some of the other people’s heartbreaking presentations was quite something. But thanks to the wisdom of the Threads of Life staff, they set up the weekend so that we didn’t have to listen to everybody’s presentation. That would have been beyond exhausting!

Instead, we were split into small groups and after much preparation and guidance, the time came on Sunday afternoon when we were to deliver our personal presentations to our group.

I delivered my presentation first and it went well. Then another woman – also a widow due to her husband’s workplace death – delivered her presentation and it was excellent.

Then a third woman – a mom whose son had died at work – delivered her presentation. And this is where things went wonky 🙁

I’m not quite sure what happened but for some reason, this mother’s story managed to cut through the rather thick protective shield around my heart and hit me hard.

After she finished speaking, I put my hand up.

The woman looked at me. “Yes?”

“That,” I said, “was amazing.”

She smiled. “Thank you.”

And then I burst into tears and began blubbering like a baby. I couldn’t stop crying! The Threads of Life staff member looked at me, rather concerned.

“I NEVER CRY!” I wailed. “But I think I finally kinda get what John’s Mom went through after he died.”

Everyone else turned to look at me. I continued sobbing. Why stop now?

I looked at the woman who had delivered the presentation. “Your speech,” I said, tears still streaming down my face, “is VERY impactful. You made me feel what it is like to lose a son as the result of an easily preventable workplace incident.”

And then my tears stopped as quickly as they began. I took a deep breath, blew my nose and smiled, feeling significantly…lighter.

Then I went to my hotel room to recoup before dinner. There was a voicemail message on my cell phone to call my brother. Our Dad’s health had taken a turn for the worse.

Oh wow. Was that why I had been so profoundly impacted by the woman’s presentation?

Had I, on some deeper level, been aware of the sudden change in my Dad’s situation? 

I took a few deep breaths and called my brother back. My Dad had lost consciousness and was likely going to pass away soon. He’d been suffering from dementia for a few years but had otherwise been in reasonably good health.

“Would you like to talk to him?” my brother asked.

“Yes,” I said.

So my brother put the phone up to his ear and there, in the Mississauga hotel room, I said goodbye to my Dad for the last time. I told him I loved him and that it was okay for him to go now.

Then my brother got back on the phone. “He moved his little arms when he heard your voice, Googie. It’s all good.”

I smiled and hung up the phone. I didn’t cry. I don’t think I had any tears left to cry, thanks to the presentation I’d just heard.

I made the decision not to fly back to Calgary to be with my Dad as he passed away. My three older brothers, younger half-brother and some of their families were with him, as were the wonderful staff of the care home. He was surrounded by people who loved him.

So I accompanied him on the final stretch of his journey from afar. By the next evening he was gone. Then I had a good cry.

And wouldn’t you know it, I was given the incredible gift of being able to go to the Bahamas right after that…to think, reflect, remember, write, read and rest.

Two weeks later, back home again in Canada, I was reading the April 2017 edition of O Magazine and I think I found the answer to my question: “Had I, on some deeper level, been aware of the sudden change in my Dad’s situation?”

The article was entitled “Cooper’s Heart” and it was written by Rebecca Gummere. Rebecca’s 6-week-old son, Cooper, had died suddenly from complications of the heart.

“There is no answer. But there is love, the kind that binds us to each other in ways beyond our knowing, ways that span distance, melt time, rupture the membrane between the living and the dead.”

– Rebecca Gummere

“I’d like to imagine we are all of us a part of a many-chambered construct that love is continually building…and from time to time an unheard sound comes from another room, noiseless, beyond our comprehension, received as a tug, a flicker in a dream, a vibration along the invisible threads that connects us,” writes Rebecca. “We are troubled, we are stirred, and we are not certain why, but something in us answers.”

Wow.

Over and over again, I am reminded of just how connected we are to each other by these invisible threads. Perhaps it is no coincidence that I was at a Threads of Life event when my heart and soul felt the pending death of my father before my brain received the news?

Related Blogs:

Tempus Fugit – Bahamas Reflections on My Dad

My Dad is Off On His Next Great Adventure

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.

 Workplace Safety Presentations Now Offered in British Columbia

 

MA presenting at Berwick

Maryanne delivering JPMF workplace safety presentation in Victoria, BC, May 2016

“As emergency services workers, we are tasked with protecting our community in environments that are never predictable, always volatile, and often beyond our control.  John’s death and Maryanne’s life bring to the forefront the issue of workplace safety after hours – when our community is asleep we are protecting their businesses, properties and investments, which are often themselves the very menace we face.”

– Staff Sergeant Darren Leggatt, Calgary Police Service, ILEETA Review

May 2016 – The John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF) is now delivering workplace safety presentations in British Columbia.

The Safety Presentation Program has been going strong in Alberta since 2012. Presenters have delivered hundreds of presentations, reaching thousands of Albertans with the workplace safety message: make your workplace safe for everyone, including emergency responders who may have to attend a premise during an emergency.

JPMF Board Chair, Maryanne Pope, is now delivering the safety presentations in BC. Once sufficient funding is in place, other speakers will be hired to deliver the presentations.

“Maryanne Pope delivered a provoking and powerful presentation which strongly resonated with the fire crews in attendance. Her story brought home, with gravity, the message of workplace safety. By putting the public in the boots of first responders, Maryanne’s experience puts a face on the men and women who serve on the front-lines daily.”

– Gary Charlton, Assistant Chief Training & Staff Development, Victoria Fire Rescue, BC

jpmf_logo_large

About the JPMF

The John Petropoulos Memorial Fund is a registered Canadian charity that was started after the on-duty death of Cst John Petropoulos of the Calgary Police Service in Sept 2000. John was investigating a break and enter complaint at a warehouse when he stepped through an unmarked false ceiling, fell nine feet into the lunchroom below and succumbed to brain injuries.

There was no safety railing in place to warn him – or anyone else – of the danger. The break and enter complaint turned out to be a false alarm; there was no intruder in the building.

John was 32.

John receiving badge from Chief Silverberg

Cst John Petropoulos receiving police badge from Chief Silverberg, 1997

The purpose of the JPMF is to raise public awareness about why and how to make their workplace and the roads safer for everyone, including emergency responders. The JPMF’s five 30-second TV ads have been aired well over a million times in Western Canada. The 10-minute Put Yourself in Our Boots safety video has been viewed on-line and during presentations thousands of times.

The JPMF Safety Presentations

The JPMF workplace safety presentations are a FREE service. There is no charge to companies, schools and other organizations to have a JPMF speaker come in and deliver the presentation.

The presentation takes approximately 1 hour and the feedback from audience members has been extremely positive.

The story of John’s easily preventable death is a powerful way to communicate just how quickly a fatality or serious injury can occur at any workplace. The presentation also offers people tangible tips on how they can help make their workplace – and the roads – safer for everyone.

“Hearing Maryanne’s heartfelt and touching account of John’s death really brought to light the hazards emergency responders face while working to protect all of us. We may think of the usual dangers associated with their jobs but are less likely to recognize the hazards in their way when they come to our worksites to help us. Maryanne’s presentation was a valuable addition to our North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week Conference and Trade Show.”

– Michelle Roth, NAOSH Week Committee Member and OHS Officer

To Book a Safety Presentation in BC

To find out more about the presentations in BC, please click here for details. For further information and/or to book a presentation, please contact the BC Safety Presentation Program Coordinator, Sarah Hourihan, at sarah@jpmf.ca.

Please note: due to logistics, at this time the JPMF presentations are being offered mainly on Southern Vancouver Island.

“Maryanne Pope brings a dynamic presentation on the importance of workplace safety as it pertains to protecting first responders. With a compelling, moving personal narrative, she is a great resource for continuing education in any organization. As a result of Maryanne’s session, our staff was able to see safety through the lens of those working in emergency services, thus becoming better informed and prepared to prevent avoidable tragedies in emergency situations.”

– Trevor Hammond, HR Manager, Berwick Retirement Communities, Victoria, BC

About Maryanne Pope

MA B&W big smile

Maryanne  was married to John. She is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. She lives on Vancouver Island, BC.

 

Does Time Heal All Wounds? 

 

MA & Emily at Edmonton service

R to L: Maryanne and her niece, Emily, at the Police & Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, Edmonton, Sept 2015

 

Fifteen years ago – Wed Sept 30th, 2000 – I awoke to my first day as a young widow. Here’s a short passage from my book, A Widow’s Awakening, explaining the experience:

All I feel is excruciating emotional pain and sheer terror.

There’s a knock at my door. “Can I come in?” my sister-in-law asks me.

“Yeah.”

“How did the night go?” she asks.

“Brutal.”

“She sits on the edge of my bed. “What can I do?”

“You could make poached eggs,” I say. “Those were John’s favourite.”

“You got it.”

Two of my brothers are waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. One of them says good morning.

I smile. “Good morning.”

The other asks me how I’m doing.

“I’d love a coffee,” I say.

Then I wander over to the dining room window and look out at our mountain ash tree. The bright red berries stand out against the yellow leaves and blue sky. It’s a beautiful image.

My brother hands me a cup of coffee.

“Thanks,” I say, turning to him. “I’m glad it’s a sunny day.”

He looks at me and says, “You’re going to be OK, aren’t you?”

I manage a smile. “Yup. Someday.”

After that, I went upstairs and took a shower, sobbing uncontrollably as the warm water helped bring the hurt to the surface. Then I stepped out of the shower and noticed my packet of birth control pills on the counter – and the next level of awareness about the reality of my new life hit me like a freight train: John and I would never be parents.

And let’s just say it was a long time before I was able to see much beauty in the world again…I mean, really see it and appreciate the gift the present moment can hold.

A year ago (Oct 2014), I wrote a different blog about the mountain ash tree moment, entitled The Gift of Gratitude, about the importance of appreciating what is – versus focusing on what is not.

And although I certainly still believe that to be true, and am more grateful than ever for the tremendous work being done by the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF), this year’s anniversary of John’s death brought something else to the surface.

I was back in Alberta for the annual Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial Day ceremony in Edmonton on Sunday Sept 27th as well as for the small service in John’s memory in the Calgary Police Service Chapel on Tue Sept 29th, the actual 15th anniversary of his passing.

But in between those two services, I did a radio interview on Monday Sept 28th with 660 News about the JPMF’s 29 Day Safety Challenge. The interviewer asked me how I was doing.

“Excellent, thank you,” I said. And I meant it.

I went on tell him how I’d been at the memorial service for fallen officers in Edmonton the day before and that I’d honestly felt…okay.

In fact, I had been more than okay. I had snuck out the back of the family tent at the very beginning of the service, so as to take a few photos of all the officers from the different services, marching down the hill to the service.

Anyway, in the radio interview I then heard myself say, right there on the air, “But the truth is: I don’t think I would be okay if it wasn’t for the work being done through the JPMF.”

And since I’d voiced that in public, I thought I better take a few moments afterwards to personally reflect on it.

There is the old saying that time heals all wounds. But I know myself and I knew John…and I can safely say that I would not be feeling the way I do today – happy again, at peace with his death and able to appreciate the beauty in a memorial service – if I hadn’t taken the path I did, working with the JPMF to help raise awareness about workplace safety.

I guess my experience has taught me that time itself can’t heal; it’s what we do in that time that matters.

But, of course, WHAT we choose to do is highly personal and unique to each individual and circumstance. And perhaps the only way to know if our path is a healthy one is to check in with our heart and soul every once in awhile…and there’s nothing quite like the anniversary of a loved one’s death to do just that.  

Here are a few more photos from the Edmonton ceremony:

RCMP officers marching with dog

CPS marching at Edmonton service

 

officers on lawn at Edmonton service

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here.