#9 Maryanne Pope “A Widow’s Awakening”
28 minute read
Every once in a while, something, or somebody, comes along and reminds you of exactly why you do what you do.
Maryanne Pope, is that somebody. Maryanne’s story, is that something.
When I first discovered Maryanne’s book, A Widow’s Awakening, I became immersed straight away. And when I closed that back cover and finished the book, I knew that the story could not end there. I had to get in touch. I needed to get involved.
Because the tragic accident that took the life of on-duty police officer John Petropoulos, Maryanne’s husband, is something that could so easily happen to any one of us. And the grief, the fear, the heartbreak, and the anger, are all emotions that we too could be facing one day.
The reality that hit me as I turned each page and completed every chapter was that the people you love most in this world can be there one minute and gone in the next.
Everything can change in an instant.
A Widow’s Awakening serves both as a valuable resource for those that are facing grief in their own lives, and also as a welcome reminder and a source of inspiration for us to cherish the people that we love while we still have the chance.
I began corresponding with Maryanne and discovered a person that was incredibly warm, open, and passionate about sharing her story, and following her personal mission. And I feel so incredibly proud to be able to bring this interview to you today.
Elliot – Hi Maryanne, it’s a real privilege to have you here on the site and I thank you for becoming a part of Lossul.com.
Your book had a real impact upon me which left me reflecting upon many different things; how precious our time is, the fragility of life, embracing the relationships in our lives, following our own paths, and even about procrastination.
Would you mind giving my readers an overview of the events that took place and which led to the writing of A Widow’s Awakening, and would you be able to give us a timeline as to when all of this took place? And also, would you please share with us what impact you hope your book will have upon the people that read it?
Maryanne – Hello and thank you so much for interviewing me!
I am very glad my book, “A Widow’s Awakening,” resonated with you. The book does tend to be a real wake-up call to readers who perhaps know what they want to achieve in life – but aren’t quite on their path yet. And yes, the story really hits a chord about the perils of procrastinating. Life can end – or change drastically – in an instant…and what a tragedy it is if we haven’t done what we wanted to with our lives.
I think one of the reasons the book resonates with people so strongly is because it is so closely linked to my personal experience. In real life, my husband, John, and I had been together as a couple for 12 years. He always wanted to become a police officer – and he did it. I always wanted to become a writer…but at the time of his death, I was still mucking around: talking about writing, complaining about not writing, reading about writing – but doing very little in terms of any actual writing!
The day before he died, I confessed to him how scared I was of waking up twenty years later and STILL not have finished writing a book. He looked at me and said, “You’re probably right about that, Maryanne…just as long as you know that will have been YOUR choice.”
So when he died the next day, I knew I had run out of excuses. Two weeks later, I started writing what would become “A Widow’s Awakening.” It took me 8 years to get it – and me – where it needed to be. But I did it.
John died in the line of duty. He was investigating a break and enter complaint at a warehouse when he stepped through an unmarked false ceiling and fell nine feet into the lunchroom below. There was no safety railing to warn him of the danger. The back of his head hit the ground with such a force that he died of massive brain injuries within hours.
John died in September 2000. So the story told in the book covers the time period from 2 weeks before John’s death right through until shortly after the one year anniversary of his death.
As for the impact that I hope the book will have on readers – it is very much the impact you mentioned that you had, after reading it: about the fragility of life, that our time here is short so we best make the best of it…and NOT waiting for a tragedy to wake us up to the importance of achieving our dreams.
Interestingly, what I also often hear back from readers is that they could not put the book down! And that is excellent feedback for a writer to hear.
Elliot – I think I mentioned to you early on when we were messaging that I was finding it really hard to put the book down too. It really is such a personal account. And I think what smacked me so hard was that your day-to-day lives were just so normal, right up until the accident. Something like this could happen to any of us and at any moment; life really is that fragile.
Thank you for such an open first answer.
It was apparent throughout the book that there was a huge spectrum of emotions that you had to face in the days, weeks, and months that followed the accident. Is it possible to be able to tell us about some of those emotions and how you handled them? And would you say that the writing of A Widow’s Awakening was cathartic, and what did you take from the experience of writing it?
Maryanne – Yes…I certainly did experience a huge spectrum of emotions in those first days, weeks and months following John’s death. On the day of his actual fall, when I was with him in the ICU as they prepared his body for organ removal, the main emotion I experienced was sadness – but also fear. Yes, I was in shock but the pain of watching John succumb to his brain injuries, right in front of me over a 17 hour period, was emotionally excruciating. I was devastated that I was losing him and that his life had been cut so short. But I was also terrified about him leaving me. He was my best friend and I knew it was going to be a very difficult road without him.
Then, as the days passed and the shock wore off, I began to experience anger, of course. I was livid that he was dead just because of a stupid missing safety railing. I was furious at everyone around me who just happened to say the wrong thing. I was angry at everyone and everything because John was gone and I was left behind to pick up the pieces.
After all the hullabaloo of the funeral was finished, then I also began to experience self-pity. It was SO unfair that everyone else got to go back to their happy little lives – while I had to go it alone, without the guy I chose to spend my life with. Eventually that self-pity passed. But it is not a very healthy emotion to experience because it is so damn ugly. I was embarrassed at how much I hated the fact that it was me going through what I was going through.
About three months after John’s death, I slipped into denial big time. In hindsight, this makes sense. I could no longer handle the hurt associated with losing him and my mind started to take over. I started to fantasize that maybe he could come back – or I would die and be with him. Denial is actually a fairly normal part of the grieving process but in all honesty, I felt like I was going crazy. Deep down, I KNEW John was dead and buried. But I simply couldn’t accept that reality anymore – and the hurt associated with it, never mind the repercussions on my life – so I started to create fantasies in my head, based on Christian beliefs.
Then, just after the 3-month mark, I hit rock bottom, emotionally and psychologically, and the time came to face the facts. This was beyond painful. It was the dark night of the soul. It was terrifying. I considered taking my own life because I just wanted to be out of the pain and away from the hurt.
Suffice to say that I obviously didn’t take my life. But I did wake up the next morning and finally started the long road back to being an emotionally and psychologically healthy person. Acceptance would be the emotion that I experienced at that point. But it was far from the zen-like acceptance. It was a kicking and screaming sort of acceptance.
As for writing A Widow’s Awakening, I actually started it 2 weeks after John’s death. And believe me, it was anything BUT cathartic. It was horrific. I hated every second of it. I hated myself for waiting for John’s death to wake me up to the importance of taking my writing dream seriously. I hated that he was dead and I was left behind to “become a writer.”
So for me, writing under these horrific conditions was not cathartic…at first. It took me 8 years to get the manuscript – and me – where it needed to be before publication. And at some point – probably around the 3rd re-write – the writing DID start to help ease the pain…mostly because I began to understand what had happened and what I was experiencing. The writing also helped me figure out how best to proceed with my life and the issue that led to John’s death (workplace safety).
I reached a point with the manuscript where I actually began to LOVE writing because I experienced the magic of making creative connections. But I couldn’t get to that point until I had waded through all the negative emotions and found the courage to be truly honest about my thoughts and feelings. This takes time.
Plus I had a professional editor teach me HOW to write…and that made all the difference from being stuck in my story to being to able to learn how to share my story in an engaging way that readers will resonate with.
Another emotion I experienced after John’s death was guilt. I wouldn’t call it “survivor’s guilt” per se, as I didn’t feel guilty that he had died instead of me.
But I did experience tremendous guilt over the financial aspects of his death. Because he died in the line of duty, that meant that I was to receive his paycheque (and then pension) for the rest of my life. So although I knew it was a tremendous gift for a writer, I felt horribly guilty about the fact that he was dead and I got to do whatever I wanted, wherever I wanted, with whoever I wanted…on his paycheque!
This partly explains why I took my writing work so seriously after his death. The money I received – and still receive – is very sacred. This also partly explains why I put so much time and effort into his memorial fund (the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund), raising public awareness about workplace safety for first responders. I had a very strong sense that since I was getting “paid,” I had to do meaningful, purposeful work in exchange for that money. And I am!
Elliot – Thank you for talking us through all of this Maryanne; this in itself has felt like a journey. One of the real standouts was when you spoke about hitting rock bottom, even to the point of thinking about taking your own life, but then waking up the next day and finding yourself at the start of the long road back.
Would you be able to expand on this a little further? And would you say that to reach such a dark place and to find yourself at such a low point can actually create the momentum that you need in order to find your way back? In fact, is it actually necessary to reach this point first?
And for anybody that is reading this and who may be in a really dark place of their own right now, what advice or assurance can you give this person which may help them on their own journey?
Maryanne – Regarding hitting rock bottom, I DON’T think it is absolutely necessary for someone to do this – before they can get themselves back on track. Unfortunately, I think most people DO think this is the case. But in my experience, it is a very dangerous approach – particularly when it comes to suicidal thoughts.
Yes, I learned an awful lot about myself when the suicidal thoughts came upon me so suddenly. But the reality is that by allowing myself to get to that rock-bottom place, I had also inadvertently gone PAST the point of wanting any help from anybody. I suddenly found myself in such a bad place that the pain of the moment became too much to bear and all I cared about was getting AWAY from that pain. I had lost all ability to reason or think of the bigger picture or the future.
I would not recommend this to anybody. Get the help you need BEFORE you get anywhere near rock bottom.
Thankfully, in my case, I got a phone call from a special person when I needed it most…and that gave me the tiny bit of hope I needed to make it through the night. But what if that person hadn’t called? Would I have attempted suicide?
When I woke up the next morning, I realized that as nice as it was to be feeling fond thoughts about this special person, the REAL work that I had to do, to get emotionally and mentally healthy again, was going to be a long steep climb. And it was…with plenty of setbacks. BUT I made a promise to myself that morning that I would NEVER let my thoughts get so out of control again that I would consider taking my own life.
It was a horrific wake-up call as to how far off track I had gotten. Yes, the experience has come in very handy to use as a warning to others about the danger of not taking our mental health and dangerous thoughts seriously. But as I mentioned before, I wouldn’t recommend letting one’s self get anywhere near rock bottom before getting professional help.
We all go through difficult experiences in life and hope for a better future is important to have. But in my experience, the sooner we can fully accept wherever it is we actually ARE – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially, geographically, etc – the sooner we can begin to slowly move AWAY from that and towards a better future. Hope is great…but action is the only thing that will lead to real change.
My advice to others who are going through a dark time is to get the help they need – be that professional counselling, a pet as a companion/someone to love, a strong support network, activities they enjoy doing, etc…or whatever.
Our thoughts can be our greatest ally or our worst enemy. But at the end of the day, WE get to decide what we think (unless we have a mental illness). And when we lose the ability to control our own thinking, then it is time to get professional help.
It’s interesting that on the subject of suicide, I write so much about thoughts versus emotions. But the reality is that it is our thoughts that lead to our emotions…so we have to learn how to handle our thinking – and recognize dangerous patterns when they start to form.
However, since changing one’s thoughts is easier said than done, my personal approach has been to take some small action instead of trying to forcibly change my thinking.
As an example, when I would start to think negative thoughts about never seeing John again, instead of dwelling on that reality, I would do something to help shift my thinking away from that…even something as simple as throwing the ball for my dog, Sable. Or going for a walk. Or planning a fun road trip. Or watching a funny movie. The less I focused on negative thoughts and instead DID something that brought me a bit of joy, the less I got caught up in thinking about things that only made me feel worse.
It’s all a bit of a mind-game…but one we have to win.
Elliot – I was really interested in what you just said there about thoughts versus emotions and the relationship between the two. And also about the conscious choice that we can make when it comes to which thoughts we focus upon. It may not be that easy at first, but given time it’s a mind game that we can eventually win.
Thank you Maryanne.
In a private message that I exchanged with you a little while back, I talked about the strength of John’s character and how I wish I could have had the opportunity to have sat and had a beer with him. He seemed like one hell of a guy, and you’ve done a wonderful job in your book of bringing out his personality and all that he stood for and believed in. Would you like to take an opportunity to share more about John’s character with the readers?
And could you also tell us more about the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund; about what the fund is aiming to achieve and also to share your ideas as to what people can do to help with this?
Maryanne – John was a really solid guy. By that I mean that he was honest, reliable, consistent, fair and had an excellent work ethic. When I was 20, these characteristics didn’t necessarily mean that much to me (the fact that he was really good looking, sexy, had tons of friends, was fun to be around, and was really kind to me were far more important). But as we got older, those other characteristics DID mean a great deal. And to be perfectly honest, now that I have been single for 17 years and have had a chance to date quite a few guys…wow, I had NO idea how lucky I was with John!
John wasn’t a really chatty guy. He wasn’t the kind of guy that sat around and told stories and had to be the center of attention at every party. He was more the quiet one who listened. But when he did say something, people certainly listened. But he really opened up to me. He had a few people in his life who he would talk to (I was one of them) and he would be very candid and open. He had no problem talking about his goals and dreams, what was bothering him, what he was thinking or feeling, etc. However, I would say his personality had changed since becoming a police officer. He was far less idealistic and a bit more closed.
In fact, what I miss the most about John is our chats. We would sit and drink coffee for hours or go for a walk and just talk about whatever. He was a phenomenal listener – which is partly why he had so many close friends. He was also a lot of fun to be around. His usual demeanour was serious but if you got a beer or two in him, he could be kinda goofy!
As I mentioned in A Widow’s Awakening, John was a man of integrity. He knew who he was and never pretended to be anything else. He was always striving to better himself. He would set a goal and then break down the individual tasks that needed to get done to achieve that goal – and then get to work. And he was relentless in his pursuit of a goal! It took him 8 years to get on the Calgary Police Service because in those days, they weren’t hiring many people. But he just kept applying to the Calgary Police Service, and police services all over Canada, as well as bettering his education. He got his criminology diploma and then his degree. He was very determined.
And he was an incredibly hard worker. He was raised in a family that taught him the value of hard work.
He was also raised in a family that taught him the value of keeping a neat and tidy home! I was the messy one. John was the one who did most of the housecleaning and yard work. He hated a messy home – so he had a bit of training to do with me when we moved in together!
One last thing about John: he always treated me with respect. He encouraged me and challenged me, yes – but he always treated me with respect. When I wasn’t around, he mentioned me and talked about me (good things) so that people knew he had a wife. I mention this because I am astounded by the number of men I meet who DON’T mention their wives or girlfriends when talking to me.
I know there are plenty of decent guys out there – but I honestly didn’t think it would be so difficult to find a new mate.
After John’s death, three of his police recruit classmates had some memorial pins created that had John’s regimental number on them (3125). They sold these to police officers, etc and raised over $12,000 by the time of John’s funeral. They asked me if (when I was in okay emotional shape) I would like to be a part of how the funds were spent. I said yes. So over that first year, the four of us decided to tackle the issue that led to John’s death: an unsafe workplace.
If a safety railing had been in place (which it should have been, according to Alberta Occupational Health & Safety legislation), then John wouldn’t have stepped through the unmarked false ceiling in the building he was searching.
So the JPMF (John Petropoulos Memorial Fund) decided to raise public awareness about why and how to ensure workplaces, including the roads, are safer for everyone, including emergency responders.
To achieve this, the JPMF has produced 8 TV ads (or PSAs – public service announcements) and a 10-minute safety video, plus other public education resources (posters, radio ads, etc). The PSAs have aired over 2 million times in North America.
The first 5 PSAs and safety video can be viewed here:
And here is the link to our 3 brand new PSAs:
The JPMF PSAs – Public Service Announcements
Another way we communicate our safety messages to the public is through presentations. We have speakers who deliver powerful safety presentations to companies, schools, other organizations, conferences, etc. Our safety presentations really resonate with people because they use the story of John’s death to illustrate just how easily a fatality or serious injury CAN happen – and what can be done to prevent it.
Nothing the JPMF does can bring John back, of course. But at least by raising awareness, we are helping bring about a culture in which all workers get home safely to their families after every shift. Sadly, we have a long way to go to achieve this. Since John’s death in 2000, more than 14,000 Canadians have died as the result of a workplace injury or occupational disease.
As for specific tips on how people can make their workplaces – and the roads – safer for others, including emergency responders, I suggest people view our PSAs and videos. But more generally, I encourage people to take a moment to look around their place of work (or their homes) and put themselves in the boots of an emergency responder who may have to be there in case of emergency. IS it safe? You may be familiar with a certain hazard – but a police office, firefighter, paramedic, security guard, etc wouldn’t be…and they would be IN your workplace in less than ideal conditions (poor lighting, alarm going off, a fire, searching for an intruder, attending to a patient, etc).
So I encourage people to take a moment and “see” their surroundings from the perspective of an emergency responder and ask themselves: is it safe for EVERYONE? If not, make the change and potentially save a life.
Elliot – That answer really hit me hard and I’m not entirely sure why. As I mentioned before, you did an incredible job of bringing out John’s personality in the book, and now through this really personal answer it’s left me feeling as though I actually knew him. Perhaps this is because the man you’ve described is exactly the kind of person that I have a lot of time for and who I like to have in my life.
Thank you for opening up so much. I really do appreciate it.
I’ve spent some time watching the JPMF videos and they have a truly powerful impact; the first of which is really significant given that it’s a recreation of what happened to John. Until watching these I never really stopped to think about how a workplace itself could potentially become more dangerous than what’s actually happening within it.
You’ve given myself (and no doubt the readers too) a lot to think about and for a number of different reasons. The work you’re doing is really important and I wish yourself and everyone involved all the very best in your mission.
I’m going to change the direction a little here now. As you already know, there is a large focus on travel here on Lossul.com and in your book you talked about a love of travel and also mentioned a number of places that you’ve travelled to. Have you always had a passion for travelling? What have been some of your favourite places and best memories? And what plans do you have for travelling in the future?
Maryanne – Yes, I have always loved traveling. My mom and one of my older brothers were both big travelers, so I was brought up in a household where travel – in whatever form – was the norm.
When I was 21, I headed to Europe for a month of backpacking. I started out on a tour and then went to Greece for two weeks with people I met on my tour. I loved Greece…and finally made it back there again a few years ago, in my late 40’s. I went with my 17 year old niece! We had a ton of fun although I didn’t party as much as I did when I was 20.
After I graduated from University, when I was 25, I went on a 7 month backpacking trip to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. I really loved seeing New Zealand…it is just so beautiful.
I have been really fortunate to travel to many different places over the years but I would say my favourite place on the planet is Paris. I spent 3 weeks there last year (I had a free apartment to write in!) and absolutely LOVED it. I was there when I was 21 and I liked it but didn’t really appreciate all the art, architecture, history…and food, of course!
A close second is the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. That is a special place for me to go to relax and reflect.
I also love the Oregon Coast and am fortunate to live pretty close to it, so visit often.
My mom and one of my nieces went to Churchill, Manitoba years ago to see the polar bears. That was a pretty incredible experience, too. I’ve also been to India with a good friend. I loved experiencing India but I must say it is really important to go with the right person (someone who can go with the flow) because it can be a tough country to travel in at times.
I spent some time in Morocco, which was amazing but we did a camel trek in the Sahara Desert for a couple of nights…in June, so it was WAY too hot to be doing that. I was in pretty rough shape by the time I made it back to Spain.
I’ve also traveled in the UK quite a bit, although not in recent years, because we have family there. I love London! I’ve been to Ireland once, as my mom’s family is from there…and I absolutely loved it there, too.
As for my future travel plans, well, I sold my home in Sidney, British Columbia a couple of months ago and put my belongings into storage, so in early January, my dog, Sadie, and I are heading on a 3-month writing road trip through the western states. We will head south to Portland and then east to Salt Lake City and then down to Sedona and Tucson, Arizona. Then we’ll head west to San Diego and all the way up the California coast to Los Angeles, San Francisco and then the Oregon Coast.
That’s the rough plan anyway! If readers are interested in reading my road trip blogs, they can sign up to receive my “Weekly Words of Wisdom” (WWOW) blogs here:
Click here to visit Maryanne’s WWOW subscription page
Also, I love this quote about travel, so thought I’d share it with your readers:
“We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.” – Unknown
Elliot – That really is such an incredible and also varied list of places that you’ve travelled to. What intrigues me most there though is your road trip around the US with Sadie. They’re three of my favourite things all rolled into one; the open roads of the US, a long road trip, and a dog! I can’t wait to hear more about this.
Well sadly we’re going to have to now bring this to a close. It’s been such an incredible interview and has brought about so many different emotions; I’ve really not wanted it to end and it’s been a true pleasure having you here on the site Maryanne.
But before we wrap this up, what can we expect to see from you next? What writing projects do you have planned? And you mentioned the Weekly Words of Wisdom newsletter (which I have also signed up to), but how else can the readers follow up with you and be kept up to date with all the latest news?
Maryanne – Thank you. Sadie and I leave on Fri Jan 12th…look out, Oregon Coast, here we come! And I have so enjoyed this interview…but I agree, it is a bit sad to have it come to an end!
I have many different writing projects on the go. I had a great meeting with my book publisher yesterday (BHC Press) and they are publishing a second edition of A Widow’s Awakening this summer (2018). It will have a different cover. The story is pretty much the same although I did make a few very minor changes.
They will also be publishing a companion book to go with that entitled “Life After Loss.” As you may know, I have written a blog series by the same name, so will be using those blogs as the basis for the book. The Life After Loss book will delve a bit further into some of the grief and loss related subjects that were touched on in the A Widow’s Awakening book: organ donation, life after death, suicidal thoughts, etc.
The project I am working on at the moment is the first draft of a play script, entitled “Bungalow by the Sea” (formerly “The Neighbours”) about my crazy neighbours. It will be a comedy but also very much a psychological journey.
Then I will be back working on the “Saviour” play script (about Virginia Woolf and the after life). That script is in excellent shape but still needs further trimming. Then it will get workshopped again.
I will also be working again soon on the “God’s Country” screenplay (about silent screen star, Nell Shipman). That script is also in very good shape but in December, I spoke with the director (who I hope will direct the film) about the script and it still needs some work. But I am very clear on what needs to get done next.
Never a shortage of work to do, I find! I take one writing project as far as I can take it, send it on to whoever needs to see it next and then get working on the next project. Then the first one comes back with suggestions and I have to make those changes…and so on! It is rather like preparing a big meal…some projects need to simmer on the back burner for a decade or two, getting stirred every so often. And some projects get fried up and onto the plate right away!
As for how readers can keep track of my road trip, they can sign up to receive the “WWOW” e-mail (just once every 2 weeks for now):
Click here to visit Maryanne’s WWOW subscription page
Or they can just check out my blog now and then on my Pink Gazelle website:
Click here to visit the Pink Gazelle website
Or if they want to see regular photos from the trip, they can follow me on Instagram:
Click here to see Maryanne’s Instagram page
Elliot – I am absolutely stunned by the sheer volume of projects that you’ve got going on; that’s truly incredible! You’ll certainly never have any time to get bored. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you and please do come back and keep us posted as to how everything is going.
Well if you’re in any way familiar with the ‘people’ features that I put out on this site then you’ll also be familiar with the completely random and totally off-topic question that I always close the interviews with.
Sometimes I ask quite straight-forward questions and I was considering asking you something like, what did you have for breakfast, or, how much is a carton of milk in Canada? But, since you’re a writer with a wonderful imagination I feel that wouldn’t really do you any justice. So, let’s get a little creative.
One beautiful evening while you’re on your road trip with Sadie, you decide to park your camper van next to the beach and sleep out under the stars. A camp fire is roaring away next to you and you can hear the sound of the waves gently crashing onto the beach. As you roll over onto your side to watch the twinkling lights of the boats on the horizon, you feel a gentle pressure on your hip bone as you realise that you’ve rolled onto an object that is buried in the sand.
As you pull back the beach towel and scrape away at the sand, you realize what it is but feel somewhat confused. And so too does Sadie, who looks at you quizzically as you uncover the object completely.
What is the object? And what happens next?
Maryanne – Okay…I love this question as it really got me thinking. But interestingly, it didn’t take me long at all to formulate an answer.
I pull back the beach towel and scrape away at the sand, and I realize what the object is but feel somewhat confused. So does Sadie, who looks at me quizzically, as I uncover the object completely. And then her expression quickly turns from one of confusion to recognition to delight. It is a ball-thrower! An orange chuck-it ball thrower – her most all-time favourite object in the entire world. Well, okay…technically, that’s not true. Her most all-time favourite object in the world is an orange & blue chuck-it BALL. But the matching ball-thrower is a very close second. Her eyes light up. Her tail wags. She stares at me, practically vibrating with excitement.
I shake my head at the Universe’s generosity in providing us with a chuck-it ball thrower and get up to the camper van to get an orange & blue chuck-it ball to put in said thrower. Now, truth be told, don’t tell Sadie this but we actually HAVE an orange chuck-it ball thrower in the van. But it is hidden because she can’t chase the ball much anymore. She is eleven now and has arthritis. So although I do still throw the ball on occasion, I rarely use the thrower because that will be really hard on her.
So I get the ball from the van, put the ball in the thrower (the one we found in the sand) and walk to the ocean. It is strangely calm so I wind up and throw the ball into the sea. Sadie dashes after it, in full Retriever-mode. Sadie loves swimming and that is much better for her joints than running. I just throw the ball a few times so as not to exhaust her too much. But we both enjoyed this little blast to the past.
Of all the objects that I could imagine being buried in the sand (a diamond ring, a box full of thousand dollar bills, etc), perhaps it is odd that I conjured up a…chuck-it ball thrower. But I think all those other dog lovers out there will understand what the ball-thrower really symbolizes: the passing of time. Our beloved dogs get old and slow down and eventually die. We know this and the pain of losing them is beyond comprehension and yet we do it again and again, dog after dog. Why? Because the love and joy they give us is immeasurable. Their life-spans, unfortunately, ARE measurably short.
On that mythical beach, beneath the magic stars, if I could bring back my beloved old Shepherds, Sable and Soda, to play with Sadie and I and the damn ball-thrower, I would…in a heartbeat. But life doesn’t work that way. All we have is the present and our precious memories of the past.
Thank you, Elliot, for taking the time to have such an in-depth interview with me – and to ask such insightful questions. Funny that I chose today to answer your final question because the truth is, Sadie’s slowness was rather irritating me earlier today. She is really slowing down and that means I have to, as well…especially on a road trip when she has to be walked on-leash much of the time. But Sable and Soda taught me that there is a tremendous gift in slowing down.
Caring for old dogs certainly teaches one patience. So perhaps Sadie is reminding me of that…as did your question.
Thank you everybody for taking the time out to read this latest ‘people’ feature with Maryanne Pope. Working with Maryanne has been a real privilege and the impact of our conversations has certainly left its mark on me. I hope, too, that this feature has reached out and touched you in some way; whether it’s as a way of helping you to deal with difficult times in your own life, as a reminder to make the most of the time that you have (for your own solo endeavours and for spending time with the people you care about), or maybe as a positive nudge for you to end procrastination and to begin (or continue) pursuing your dreams.
Another huge takeaway from this experience, for me, has been the portrayal of John as a husband, as a police officer, and as a man. The description of John’s character in question four brings us a man that I’m sure we’d have all liked to have known. The world would be a much better place with more people like this amongst us.
Please do feel free to check out Maryanne’s website, Pink Gazelle, and also to sign up to her Weekly Words of Wisdom (the travel blog posts have been a lot of fun, trust me). And please take a look at the JPMF safety video and PSAs by following the links included in Question 4. We can all make a difference and help keep people safe by looking around our homes and workplaces and asking ourselves if the place is safe for everyone. Please do wish Maryanne and the JPMF all the very best with their work, because the mission they’re on and the message they’re spreading is relevant to each and every one of us.
A Widow’s Awakening is available through the Pink Gazelle website in both digital and paperback format, and you can find out more by clicking here.
And finally, I have one signed copy of A Widow’s Awakening available to give away in a free prize draw. For your chance to win this copy, please click here or on the image below.
Did you enjoy this feature? If so then please do share the feature with your friends by using any of the share links below, and please also feel free to comment at the bottom of this page. If you’d like to receive more content like this direct to your email inbox, then please sign up to the Lossul.com newsletter by following this link. It would be an honour to have you as part of the Lossul.com community.
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Dear Elliot, what a deeply moving post, a tribute to John and to all who grieve for someone they lost. Maryanne, your openness, your willingness to be vulnerable and share that with us all warms my heart in ways I cannot even begin to say. You ARE a brave woman. Elliot, you are a beautiful writer and have an amazing way with words. Thank you for sharing something so personal and intense. I don’t know if we can ever truly know what each of our souls are here to experience this time around. My parents died years ago and at times the pain is unbearable. The compassion from others always helps to soften the rough edges of heartache <3 What a wonderful addition to my day! Bless you and yours.
Love to you,
Hi Katy…just wanted to thank you for your kind words! And yes, I agree with you that the compassion from others can carry us far. And I think compassion for ourselves is really important, too…that has been an ongoing lesson for me to learn. Take care and I am sending you a big hug from the Oregon Coast! Maryanne
Ah Katy, thank you so much for posting such a wonderful comment. Your support, as always, is so sincerely appreciated.
Working with Maryanne has been a pretty remarkable experience for me and there were times when we corresponded when I just had to sit back and say “wow”. Because I felt humbled that such an open and honest interview was coming together for this website and I am grateful to Maryanne for agreeing to share all of this with us.
And you’re right Katy, very often we hang onto our own pain and hardly speak a word of it because we believe we are alone (which was the main driver behind the ‘You Are Not Alone’ article that I wrote), but all it really takes is for one person to speak up about a deeply personal topic and to be vulnerable, and that speaks out to countless people who really are in need of comfort, or hope, or assurance, or inspiration.
And thank you too for being so open about the losses in your own life. I know this is something you’ve mentioned before, and believe me, I wish you every comfort during the times when you need it most.
Thank you as always,
Me again! Elliot, I just wanted to thank you so much for taking the time to interview me for Journey With Lossul. I really appreciate having the chance to answer questions in such depth and I am very honoured to be part of your on-line community. Keep up the awesome work you are doing…and happy writing & traveling! Maryanne
Thank you Maryanne, and believe me I am just as grateful also. I feel honoured that this interview came together for this site and I’m super proud of how it’s all turned out. Please do continue to let us know of any upcoming projects and I will be delighted to share them with my readers.
Happy writing and travelling to you too my friend…and please give Sadie a scratch behind the ear and a pat on the belly from me! 🙂
Elliot, what a wonderful and insightful interview. Maryanne’s honesty about her painful experience was incredible to read: the stages she went through, her thoughts.
This quote of Maryanne’s is profound: “I write so much about thoughts versus emotions. But the reality is that it is our thoughts that lead to our emotions…so we have to learn how to handle our thinking – and recognize dangerous patterns when they start to form.”
I will read her book.
Elliot, your curiosity and fantastic questions are so refreshing to find online, in the age of copy and paste posts. Most people are “Me, me, me.”
I’m so happy to have found you Elliot.
Now…isn’t this interesting? I promised Elliot that I would write a follow-up blog/update about what I’ve been up to since our first interview more than a year ago…and reading Michelle’s comments about that interview has given me the perfect place to start my update blog!
I love Michelle’s observation about Elliot’s genuine interest in other people…versus the “Me, me, me” trend (of which I DO tend to fall prey to myself…ack!). Michelle is bang-on…having a curiosity about the world and what individuals are doing with their lives is an excellent trait.
Thank you so much for commenting, and yes it must be fate that Michele left this comment against your feature. I really hope it helps you with writing your update and I look forward to sharing it on the site. Michele has a really interesting story to share and you can click on her name below which will take you through to her website – but watch this space!
And thank you for the compliment…it’s very much appreciated. As I mentioned in my reply comment to Michele, right from the get-go I never wanted this site to just be about me. Yes I’ve stories to tell, fun to have, and I’ve reflections on life to share, but I’m just one person and I never wanted this site to just be about me. I think it’s far more insightful and far more rewarding to be able to bring inspirational people, like yourselves, onto the site so that we can do something collectively.
Thank you as always for commenting. 🙂
Hey Michele, wow what an incredible comment to leave on the site – thank you!
The interview with Maryanne was a remarkable experience to have had and it really was a huge reminder as to why I began these features in the first place. We covered a hell of a lot of ground and went through so many emotions putting this together, and I’m proud to say that Maryanne has become a dear friend.
The quote you’ve mentioned is a powerful one and not too dissimilar to what you recently said to me about ‘where I focus my flashlight’. It’s a life-changing lesson to learn, that we’re far more in control of how we think and feel than we often give ourselves credit for.
And thank you so much for such a huge compliment Michele. To have picked up on my curiosities about people means everything to me. When Joseph Campbell said to “follow your bliss”, well this is exactly what I did when I was setting up Lossul.com. I didn’t think about what the majority would want to see, I didn’t think about what content would attract the most clicks, and I definitely didn’t think about what might make money…the one and only question I asked myself was, what do I love doing? The answer is simple…I love to travel, to create adventures, and I love to take control of my life and to continue to improve myself, each and every day. But this is not something we can do all by ourselves, because we’re all in it together. We all have a story to tell and we all have lessons to bring to each other’s lives, and if we can practice humility then we can see that everybody around us is a potential teacher. I’m passionate about creating these features because I want to hear other people’s stories and to share them with as many people as possible, and throughout the process I hope we can all learn a little more about ourselves, about other people, and about the world.
Thank you so much for becoming a part of the site and I’m truly grateful for you.