Thursday Tidbits

Posted on November 18, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

Life isn’t always a bed of roses


“Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears,

While we all sup sorrow with the poor,

There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears,

Oh, hard times, come again no more.”

Hard Times Come Again No More – Stephen Foster

I am a storyteller. Someone once referred to me as a diarist. I guess in many ways, my website has chronicled my life and that of my family. I usually talk about the mundane because, lets face it, most of us happily live pretty ordinary lives. I also document the lives of others from time to time in a feature called “Faces in the Crowd”. I use humour to tell my stories and often include the lyrics of a song to bring home my point.

I can’t be funny all the time. I also like to share information that is educational. I try not to preach but rather to inform.

Today I want to use this space to talk about mental health, trauma and its unwelcome partner PTSD… and an amazing guy that I’ve just come to know.

Last week I received mail from home. My daughter, Betsy, sent me Vernon Theriault’s book “Westray – My Journey From Darkness to Light”. I opened the book and started to read and was transported back in time 29 years ago.

On the morning of May 9th, 1992, I was awoken by a call from our then Mayor, Colin Herman Chisholm. I was a Town Councilor at the time. It was a Saturday, and I was easing into the day. To receive a call from the Mayor at that time of the day was most unusual. He informed me that earlier that morning, there had been an explosion at the Westray mine, just up the road from Antigonish in Pictou County. He asked me to go at once to represent the town and to bring a cheque in support of the families. At that point, there were no details of the explosion or how many men were underground at the time. I spent the next two days at the firehall in Plymouth just across the road from the mine.

Vernon Theriault was a miner at Westray. He worked the day shift on May 8th and would have worked the day shift again on the 9th but that was not to be. Instead of performing his duties as a miner, he and many other brothers were faced with the grim and dangerous task of trying to rescue their fellow miners.

Twenty-six of his co-workers were killed that day. In the aftermath of this traumatic event, Vernon and many others suffered from PTSD.

Vernon was courageous on many levels. He was awarded a medal of bravery as part of the recue team. He was brave to seek professional counselling. He was also very courageous in admitting that he had serious literacy issues that needed to be addressed for him to move forward with his life.

I am not a trained psychologist or therapist so I’m on very thin ice discussing trauma, PTSD or mental health. Trauma comes in many forms. The sudden death of a loved one, witnessing tragedies (like first responders) or being caught up in natural disasters can all bring on many unwanted consequences. Trauma can and does affect one’s mental health. Sadly, many people are born with bad chemistry in their brains and through no fault of their own, live lives filled with mental health challenges.

Some of my readers have deep, personal connections to this story, having lost siblings, spouses or close friends. It has been 29 years which seems like a long time, but time never heals every wound. This summer on one of my long walks, I was invited to the home (garage!) of friends for a bite to eat. Unbeknownst to me, the wonderful, personable woman sitting beside me was the sister of one of the men who was killed in the disaster. Only in the course of our friendly chat, when I inquired about her maiden name, did I make the connection.

Vernon worked tirelessly for over ten years lobbying the Federal Government to make changes to the criminal code to hold accountable companies, their owners and managers for safety violations in the workplace. The Westray Bill, as it has become to be known, is aimed at protecting worker’s safety.

When I finished reading Vernon’s book, I reached out to him to congratulate him. We exchanged several messages. I discovered that he was interested in writing a follow up book on mental health. I assumed that his cousin, Marjorie Coady, who co-authored his first book, would assist him with the second. Sadly, Marjorie died a year after the book was published.

I plan to meet with Vernon when I go home for Christmas. I have offered to assist him with the writing of his next book. It would be an honor to be involved in this project. Vernon tells me that all proceeds of the book will go to mental health.

In the case of so many out there suffering from trauma and poor mental health, it is my fervent wish that “hard times come again no more”.

Have a great weekend.

Enjoy this? Visit the rest of my website to enjoy more of my work or buy my books!
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