Archive for Police Line-Of-Duty Deaths Posts

Reflections on Canadian Police Memorial Service 

“A broken heart heals when we allow the healing to go as deep as the wound went.”

– Beth Moore

A lot can change in 18 years.

On Sunday September 29th, I was in Ottawa for the annual Canadian Police & Peace Officers’ Memorial Service. I decided to attend the ceremony because this year’s service fell on the actual 19th anniversary of John’s death.

For moral support, I brought along my brother, Pat, his partner, Mary, and friends of the family, Dennis and Teresa.

On the Saturday evening before the Sunday service, there was a Next-of-Kin Candlelight Vigil. I must confess I didn’t really want to go this event…and I’m not quite sure why. But I’m awfully glad I did.

Pat, Mary and I arrived at the evening event a little late, so we stood at the back of the room, listening to the presentations. Afterwards, I was gathering up my coat when a woman walked over and threw her arms around me.

“Maryanne Pope!” she cried. “You FINALLY made it to the Ottawa service!”

“Yes,” I said, a bit baffled.

“I LOVED your book!” she said. “You told it like it is…right down to how being a new police widow at this service is about as much fun as having a knitting needle poked in your eye! That was PERFECT.”

She introduced herself as another police widow and it all came back to me. We had communicated via e-mail and social media years ago but hadn’t been in touch recently. We chatted a little then she waved another woman over.

“I thought that was you at the back of room!” said the second woman, another police widow, who also gave me a big hug. “I’m so glad you came! I loved your book. I cannot tell you how much it helped me and so many others.”

Then she waved another woman over and it happened again. “I loved your book! Why didn’t you tell us you were coming? You could have joined us for our widows dinner!”

Then we all walked from the building – quietly sharing our stories and heartaches, lessons, hopes and dreams – to the glass panels outside, where the names of all the fallen Canadian peace and police officers are etched.

We found the names of our loved one and placed a tealight at the base of the panel. Someone was softly strumming a guitar and a few family members were singing. It was beautiful. Then people slowly started drifting off.

When I return to Ottawa next year for the 20th anniversary of John’s death, I will most definitely join the other widows for dinner. It would be an honor.

The next day was the actual memorial service. It, too, was beautiful…the weather, the surroundings, the people I was with, the ceremony, the music,  the man I was remembering, the profession for which he gave his life.

The service itself was similar to the one I had attended eighteen years ago as a shattered young police widow. But I am different…my heart has healed.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, A Widow’s Awakening, about my experience of being in Ottawa one year after John’s death (John is “Sam”):

On September 30th, Sam’s family, Ed and I have front row seats at the national memorial service for fallen officers at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. I’ve tried to mentally prepare myself for today. Tom will be carrying a police hat, representing Sam, on a pillow. There will be thousands of officers from across North America. The media will be filming family members of officers who have passed away in the line of duty during the past year. There will be speeches. There always are.

What I’ve forgotten to factor in, however, is that although I’ve survived a year of widowhood, I am nowhere near healed. Thus it isn’t pride, respect and honour I feel as the pipe band marches by; it’s anger. Boom, boom, boom goes the drum and I’m back at Sam’s funeral watching the pallbearers climb the church steps, struggling beneath the weight of his casket. Who did take more than a fucking date square from his funeral? Has any positive change come from his death? Are workplaces any safer?

You tell me. Since John’s death in 2000, nearly 20,000 Canadians have died as the result of a workplace injury or illness. In 2020, the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund will be producing our ninth public service announcement to raise awareness about this shocking statistic.

Yes, my heart is healed. But the work continues…in the hopes that other people won’t have to go through what I – and thousands of others – have gone through.

Here are a few more photos from the Ottawa service: 

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

Lousy Legacy – Too Many Canadians Die on Job

 

“On any given workday in Canada, three people will die from a job-related fatality, life-altering injury or occupational disease.”

 Threads of Life; The Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support

As far as I’m concerned, one workplace fatality is one too many.

That nearly 20,000 Canadians have died because of their job since 2000 – the year my husband, John, died in the line of duty as the result of a preventable fall at unsafe workplace – is not only atrocious, it is completely unacceptable.

And yet accept it we must. By “we,” I mean the public as well as the hundreds of thousands of loved ones – family, friends & colleagues – left behind to pick up the pieces after these workplace tragedies (the vast majority of which were preventable)…never mind the thousands of workers who died before 2000.

Or…maybe it’s time we stop accepting this disgraceful legacy?

Maybe it’s time we raised our societal expectations a few notches and started questioning why nearly 1000 Canadians a year are dying as the result of their work – be that from a injury sustained on the job or as the result of an occupational illness?

Maybe it’s time we take a good hard look at the sheer number of workplace fatalities, serious injuries and occupational illnesses – and crank up our collective efforts to shift towards a culture that truly reflects the belief that one workplace death is one too many.

Maybe it’s time we create a new legacy? Because quite frankly, our current one is…horrific.

To this end, the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund is in the early stages of creating our next 30-second TV ad/public service announcement (this will be our 9th PSA). The purpose of this PSA will be to raise public awareness about the simple fact that a staggering number of Canadians are dying simply because…they went to work.

But we could use some help. 

Please click here for details about our current fundraising campaign (that runs until Canada Day 2019).

Thank you.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is 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

 

Until We Meet Again Podcast – Elizabeth Fournier Interview with Maryanne Pope

 

“When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.”

– From the poem, When Great Trees Fall, by Maya Angelou

On Thursday April 11th, 2019, I was very honoured to be interviewed by Elizabeth Fournier, host of the KKPZ-AM radio show, “Until We Meet Again,” out of Portland, Oregon.

The show gently opens up conversations about death in a culture where people are often left wondering what to say or do after the loss of a loved one, or when supporting someone who is grieving.

Right before my interview, Elizabeth read Maya Angelou’s poem, When Great Trees Fall, in it’s entirety. It is a beautiful piece of writing…and was a perfect start to our candid and heartfelt chat about death, grief and life after loss.

For this blog post, I chose to use the above image of the ocean, as well as the starfish excerpt from my book, A Widow’s Awakening, because Elizabeth began our interview by asking me about my new home in Parksville on Vancouver Island…and whether I had a view of the ocean. As you’ll hear in the podcast, I told her no, I didn’t have a view of the water but I do have a lovely garden view and am a 5-min drive from the sea.

Now that nearly 19 years (can you imagine?!) have passed since my husband John’s death, I can safely say the tide HAS returned for this starfish…I am happy again 🙂

To listen the 30-minute podcast with our interview, here is the link.

My interview will be played on the radio show in 6 weeks (so late May/early June 2019). In the meantime, if you’re interested in listening to the show, Elizabeth has some really neat guests. The show can be heard every Thursday at 2 pm (PST).

“Maryanne’s book is unlike any widow book I’ve read due to her honest nature of stumbling her way through the relationship with her husband while he was alive, and after his death. Her outlook is pragmatic, courageous, and I believe quite helpful for widows to feel they are not alone in their journey becoming the awakened person they were meant to become. A Widow’s Awakening offers a wonderful balance of practical knowledge and inspiring advice that will give its readers a sense of peace and hope.”

– Elizabeth Fournier, Until We Meet Again radio host

To purchase A Widow’s Awakening, please visit BHC Press for a list of on-line retailers.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is 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. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.