Archive for Peace 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.”


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.

published in A Widow's Awakening Book, Death, Grief, Life After Loss, Peace, Spirituality, Synchronicity by Maryanne | February 8, 2017 | 8 Comments

This is the third blog in the Life After Loss series:

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

As I mentioned in last week’s Life After Loss blog, “To What ELSE Did This Widow Awaken To?” the heightened awareness that I experienced on the day of John’s death continued well past September 29th, 2000. In the days and weeks that followed, I began to perceive connections between what seemed like completely unrelated events – but made complete sense to me.

So 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?

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?

John at Disneyland, Sept 22nd, 2000

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?

For further info about the Life After Loss blog series, please click here.

Here is the link to subscribe to receive the Life After Loss blogs – as well as to read the blogs posted thus far in the series.

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.

published in Change, Compassion, Giving, Inspiration, Kindness, Peace by Maryanne | July 20, 2016 | 4 Comments

Responding to Tragedy: Can Kindness & Compassion Help Heal a Broken World?


man with light behind him

“The inter-relatedness of the world links us constantly with more people than our hearts can hold. Or rather – for I believe the heart is infinite – modern communication loads us with more problems than the human frame can carry.”

– Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

That was written in 1955.

“Today a kind of planetal point of view has burst upon mankind,” wrote Lindbergh. “The world is rumbling and erupting in ever-widening circles around us. The tensions, conflicts and sufferings even in the outermost circle touch us all, reverberate in all of us. We cannot avoid these vibrations.”

“But just how far can we implement this planetal awareness?” asked Lindbergh. “We are asked today to feel compassionately for everyone in the world; to digest intellectually all the information…and to implement into action every ethical impulse aroused by our hearts and minds.”

Sixty years later, the world is a very different place – and news of the tensions, conflicts and staggering amount of suffering now reaches us, thanks to the internet and social media, at lightning speed.

Put your hand up if you’re as horrified as I am with all the tragedy happening in the world.

In the past few weeks alone, the violent acts in Orlando, Dallas, Baton Rouge, France, Pakistan and Calgary have made it through my protective shell and hit the old heart.

And that’s just a snapshot of recent events that made the mainstream news. What about the millions of people suffering and/or needlessly dying around the world on any given day – that doesn’t get reported?

Never mind the ongoing slaughter of species at risk animals – such as elephants for their tusks. Try as I might to avoid seeing heart-breakingly graphic photos of poachers and their gruesome handiwork, they keep finding their way into my in-box.

How are we supposed to accept all that is wrong in the world?

Because the pain, horror, hatred, violence and sadness just goes on and on and on. Each new day brings a new tragedy – which means the previous day’s tragedy is already on its way to becoming yesterday’s news. But I know for a fact that what quickly becomes old news to the rest of the world is just the beginning of a very long descent into hell for those coming to terms with their loved ones’ death.

So what are we supposed to do? Stop listening to the news?

head in sand.jpeg

Stick our head in the sand and pretend everything is okay? Join the ranks of the apathetic masses? Cruise Pinterest for photos of pretty things that at least make us feel better?

Or do we stay tuned to the news and respond to each tragedy by sending out a quick little prayer to those who have been impacted?

Or…do we respond by trying to make life a bit better for those in our little corner of the world?

I don’t have the answers. But what I am trying to do, whenever I hear word of the latest violent act, is consciously choose to have a compassionate response to the tragedy.

Even if it is something as small as sending an encouraging e-mail to a friend. Or picking up the phone and calling someone I haven’t spoken to in a long time – just to see how they are doing. Or re-tweeting a stranger’s good news.

I’m also trying not to listen, hear and watch too much of all the bad that is going on in the world – and instead focus on the good that’s happening…as well as thinking of small but significant acts that I can take in my own life each and every day to help put a smile on someone’s face. In other words:

“Do small things with great love.”

– Mother Teresa

Instead of horrific acts with great hate – as seems to be the trend these days.

man with umbrella

Who knows: maybe compassion, kindness and joy can, in some small way, help combat all the hatred, intolerance, anger and violence?

I’m curious as to how YOU handle all the sad news on any given day. Does it impact you? Do you pay close attention to the news? Do you feel compassion for strangers? If so, do you act on it?

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 her weekly blog, please sign up here.