Updated Feb 14th, 2022
Questioning Coincidence – Can Grief Awaken Our Capacity to Notice Connections Between Seemingly Unrelated Events?
“And don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear?”
– Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Taking another look at what we call “coincidences”…
In the days and weeks that followed my husband’s death on September 29th, 2000, I began to perceive connections between what seemed like completely unrelated events – but made complete sense to me.
I’m very curious to hear about other people’s experiences with “coincidences.”Have you ever experienced an event that struck you as a bit odd at the time – and then something else happens later and you look back on that original event and can’t help but wonder if it was connected in some way? Click To Tweet
Some call that a coincidence. But for me, in light of all that happened around the time John’s death, I do wonder if some of the seemingly random events were connected in some way?
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
On Friday September 22nd, 2000 John and I spent a spectacular day together at Disneyland. We’d attended a friend’s wedding in the morning and then had the rest of the day to run around Disneyland like a couple of over-sized kids. We had a blast!
When the time came to watch the fireworks, we were standing on a curb, waiting for the show to begin and we happened to notice an entire family – Mom, Dad, two kids and Grandma – all wearing matching yellow Winnie the Pooh jackets. They were adorable.
But then, just before the fireworks started, Pooh Grandma decided to walk right in front of us – and promptly collapsed, landing on her back. John, being a police officer, immediately knelt down to help her as I ran off into the crowd calling for help.
When I returned, John was still kneeling beside her, holding her hand and comforting her. She was breathing but not conscious. The paramedics arrived and as we were walking away, John looked at me said, “Wow, did that lady ever hit the back of her head hard.”
“Things like that,” I said, “aren’t supposed to happen at the Happiest Place on Earth.”
Then, exactly one week later – September 29th – back home again in Canada, John fell through an unmarked false ceiling into the lunchroom below, hit the back of his head and died of brain injuries.
A few days later, while tackling yet another devastatingly difficult task – choosing John’s burial spot at the cemetery – I found a place I thought was suitable and then closed my eyes a moment, just to get a feel for it. When I opened my eyes again, I turned my head to the right and there, four plots over, was a yellow Winnie the Pooh carved into a young woman’s headstone. I breathed in sharply, suddenly remembering the Pooh family at Disneyland.
Coincidence or not, I knew I’d found John’s final resting place.
Two months later, I went for lunch with Lil, the police officer John was partnered with the night of his fall. She shared with me the details of John’s last shift. When she got to the part about finding John on the lunchroom floor, she told me how the K-9 officer and John’s Sergeant and teammates had stayed with him until the paramedics arrived, comforting him as best they could.
“You need to know,” she said quietly, “that he was with people who loved him.”
I thought back again to Pooh Grandma at Disneyland and how John, a stranger, had been there to comfort her.
Then on the third anniversary of John’s death – September 29th, 2003 – Lil was working and went into a flower shop to buy flowers for John’s grave. Noticing Lil’s uniform, the woman behind the till commented, “My daughter is buried near a police officer.”
“Oh?” said Lil.
“I’m not sure if it’s the same officer,” said the woman, “but my daughter’s gravestone is the one with Winnie the Pooh on it.”
And that is in a city of more than a million people. If it’s just a coincidence, it’s a dandy.
In the summer of 2008, I had just finished the final rewrite of the manuscript for my book, A Widow’s Awakening. After dozens of rewrites, I knew it was where it needed to be. But just before I sent it off for publication, I happen to be reading Jack Kerouac’s classic, On the Road, and came across the line: “And don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear?”
I breathed in sharply. I knew I’d found the quote for the beginning of the book.
Now that a more than a decade and a half has passed since John’s death, when I think back to the Winnie the Pooh incidents, I realize that whether they were unrelated coincidences that my anxious mind needed to connect – so as to find meaning in the unacceptable – or whether they really were somehow connected doesn’t really matter.
Maybe what matters is that connecting the dots into some sort of meaningful pattern, real or imagined, helped me find peace during a very difficult time. Because that, I have learned, is a very important part of the grieving process.What is your experience with coincidences? Click To Tweet
“The quiet teachers are everywhere. When we think we are in charge, their lessons dissolve as accidents or coincidence. But when brave enough to listen, the glass that breaks across the room is offering us a direction that can only be heard in the roots of how we feel and think.”
– Mark Nepo, “The Book of Awakening”
Related Blogs by Maryanne
Father Daughter Dialogue – Fictionalizing the Past for a Better Future
Synchronicity – You’re Getting Warmer
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.
8 thoughts on “Questioning Coincidence”
This amazing story just came in via e-mail:
I love this blog! It really makes one wonder about the connection of things. I recall these details from your book and an older blog but having them all put together in this one blog is pretty mind-blowing, actually. Like stops me in my thoughts this morning.
LIKE REALLY? How on earth can all those Pooh Bear connections not be some sort of mysterious, divine, spiritual…call it what you will … connection and message?? Great blog. Very thought-provoking for sure.
I had a similar thing with my dad. Long before my dad died, I would randomly check my watch or phone and the time always seemed to be 11:11. To this day, I see it like 10 times a week. So weird. And I have seen that time 11:11 for many years since I was like 30 and wondered, “Why do I always randomly check my phone or a clock and that’s the time?
Then the day my dad went into respiratory arrest and passed away, my cell phone rang at 11:11 while we were at a soccer game. I noticed the time and thought CRAP this can’t be good. I just had a feeling it was bad news. And the nurse gives me the news – that my dad has gone into respiratory arrest.
Then the night after his funeral, I am awakened out of a deep, exhausted sleep by this mysterious but strong presence around me. I bolt awake and see a bright light in our bedroom… and I notice the clock on our dresser says 11:11. And no one is in the bedroom, just this bright mysterious light (NOT the ceiling light). And with this mysterious light was a very calming presence, and I was wide awake, not dreaming whatsoever.
At first I was scared, then instantly felt calm. And from that day forth I never again worried about my Dad; I just felt he was absolutely fine, at peace and with us. I often sense his calming presence.
Oh and since I was a kid, number 11 has been my number. I like how the 1 and 1 line up so parallel. And my birthday is in the 11th month.
Anyhoo that is my tale of bizarre connections …
S.H., Calgary, AB
That is absolutely amazing about 11:11 being connected with your Dad. That is just way too many times to see that number not to have some sort of deeper meaning – especially since 11 is your number.
And then to see the light in your room…what colour would you say it was? You will be interested in next week’s Life After Loss blog!
11 is a hugely significant number to me, as well. It is the number of my soul mate. I love the number eleven.
What a beautiful story – thank you SO much for sharing!
Wowsa woo…weird stuff going on in the universe 🙂
I have seen 11:11 for many years, both in the morning and at night. Many people have been taking note of that time. There is a great significance to that. Also, I would say there is a great significance to the connection with the “Pooh Bear” theme. I would’ve been excited to know there was a person connection with the florist’s family. It is not coincidence at all.
Dear Maryanne — Thank you for writing this post and sharing these strange and coincidental and also somehow comforting details regarding events near the time of John’s death. I am going to have to think about this idea of events being connected and having deeper meaning — not sure there were any regarding Allen’s death, but now I will spend more time thinking. Also, what a wonderful photo of John on the carousel horse — it makes me realize that I would like to see more photos of this very handsome man. Hope all is well, Glynis
I have a group of coincidences that seem to follow the death of loved ones. One of my sisters died in a car accident on August 15 1986 when I was 10 years old. Then 7 years later on August 14 1993 a very close friend of mine died in a car accident. And 7 years later on June 28 2000 my husband died in a car accident. So although the third death wasn’t in the same month it was every 7 years. Also of interest was the fact that my friend’s birthday was October 10. And my husbands birthday was October 9. A third group of coincidences was that my sisters name was Doreen and my husbands name was Dory. And to make some even more strange coincidences is that I had another sister who was pregnant with her 5th child at the time of my husbands death and she approached me some time after that if the baby was a girl, (she already had 4 boys) would I be ok if they named her Dorianne. They had had that name picked out for many years already but had only had boys. It was to be named after my sister Doreen who had passed away but then after I married Dory they had decided to probably not use that name as it would likely be shortened to Dori – since it’s more commonly known as a female name anyways, they didn’t think it was nice to have 2 Dorys in the family of different genders. But, then after his passing they reconsidered it again as it could be named after both my sister, Doreen and my husband Dory. They were very thoughtful and asked my permission first though. I thought it was wonderful!
So not only was this 5th baby finally a girl but she came 3 weeks early to be born on none other than October 9th! Which as you may recall I mentioned was my husband Dory’s birthday! And they did name her Dorianne. So I’ve often pondered, is this just a bunch of random coincidences or is there really some spiritual connections between all the dates and names?
Wow, wow, wow!!! I loved reading all this…and the fact that after all that, Dorianne was actually born on Dory’s birthday is pretty wild!!
Hi Glynis! Yup…John sure was handsome ? Glad you found this blog interesting. Some stuff that happens kinda makes you wonder…
Have a great weekend!
Whoa…Deborah, that is kinda weird that
you have also been seeing 11:11 for years now, too! I am going to look into those numbers more…
Happy weekend ?