What is in the meaning behind the word ‘tribute’? Look it up and your will find a variety of meanings, often in reference to showing respect for someone you admire.  We hear about paying tribute to actors during the academy awards. (Actually, I don’t watch the academy awards – perhaps that is one reason. I don’t know much about which actor played in what tv show or movie.)

When people die, I hear people say – I will attend their funeral to ‘pay my last respects’. What is the difference between a funeral and a celebration of life? Probably good for a discussion another day. Either way, I believe you attend to honour and give respect for the individual who died or to show support to the family.

For me, tribute means to honour and show respect. It is more than giving thanks. Each day, I try to acknowledge the wonderful work each of our volunteers does: by sharing their stories at schools, colleges, co-op classes, work place health and safety training days, at conferences be it large or small audiences; supporting the development of their local community Steps for Life or Charity of Choice event by sharing their time; and each time we match a volunteer family guide to a new family member. These are only some of the times that I give thanks for each volunteer. They may not hear me directly, but I hope they know how much they are valued. That is my tribute to them. I respect their time and their commitment. Is one more valuable than another? Not to me nor to Threads of Life. Whether it’s a one-time role or a commitment of many years, each volunteer is equal. Threads of Life would not be here to support family members without each volunteer. Do we give out an award to each volunteer? Not a physical award, however, more importantly I hope that they understand and appreciate that they are making a difference in the lives of others. That should be their reward.

How else then do we show respect and honour? At Threads of Life, we remember the names and faces of those who died, had a significant life-altering injury or developed an occupational illness, each time we gather. At family forums, we have time for personal reflection; we have family photos on a table; we speak the name of the individual. This is to honour their life. At our community events, such as Steps for Life, we have memory signs – with pictures, names, dates and a short few words.  Our tribute to recognize each individual – the gifts they gave or give to their family and friends. It is in recognizing that loss that we recognize the difference the individual makes in our lives.

Why do we give birthday gifts or anniversary gifts? Is it to say ‘I respect you’, ‘I am thankful for you’? I suspect so or something similar in your own words. Several individuals have started to make a small donation monthly to Threads of Life to honour their family member or close friend who died as a result of a workplace injury. We call these ‘tribute donations’. For the donor, it’s a way to say the individual’s name, paying tribute on a regular basis to a life that was very important to them. The act of giving this donation also allows them to grieve. Grief doesn’t end, it is an ongoing journey that allows us to reflect. Other family members have invited their friends to make a donation in memory of their loved one during the funeral or celebration of life events. Others have sent gifts in recognition of birthdays.  Many other family and friends donate during the spring at Steps for Life to openly reflect on the life of someone significant to them. We write their name on our shirt, or carry a photo. The participants in Steps for Life know the gift they make will help others.

Employers, too, have made significant donations in honour of a worker’s life. The tragedy has huge ripple effects to the employer and co-workers, along with the lasting effect to family and friends.  A tribute may have many meanings to each donor; however, the result is similar: to show respect, to honour and give thanks. No matter the amount of the gift – each is of great value. The tribute has huge ripple effects too. 

It is like a circle. The financial gift comes to Threads of Life in order to help other family members, to train and support a network of volunteers, with the aim that their family member’s story is part of prevention and awareness. Ultimately, we want all workers to come home safe and well at the end of their working day.

For the donor, a tribute donation is a way to say the individual’s name, paying tribute on a regular basis to a life that was very important to them.

Would you like to make your own tribute donation?


Shirley Hickman
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