Does Time Heal All Wounds?
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.
“How did the night go?” she asks.
“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.
“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:
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.