When Judith Conway first set up the 100-foot-long display on her Comox fence, she wanted to start a conversation about the overdose crisis, raise awareness and eventually create change.
Last week, she packed up the impactful display and took it on a plane to the Vatican to be blessed by the Pope.
The display is made up of flags and ribbons. On each flag is written the names of people who have died from an overdose in B.C. White flags decorated with a single red heart represent the people who are predicted to die from an overdose in the province each week, and the ribbons represent those currently struggling with an addiction.
On one of the flags, the name Matthew Conway is written, Conway’s son who died of an overdose in 2017.
Matthew was a crossfit trainer and managed a gym. His addiction started with a prescription following an accident and soon turned into something he could not control.
“I wrote to the Vatican telling them about Matthew and the crisis in Canada and the world for that matter,” said Conway. “I asked about getting the flags and ribbons blessed.”
This is how she came to be sitting up on stage, near the pulpit at the March 20 General Audience where she received her blessing.
Conway said she was crying when Pope Francis came over to her and she was comforted by his amazing smile.
“He came right to me and blessed me then the flags,” she said. “I could feel his peaceful spirit. [It was] very emotional needless to say.”
Conway’s faith has been very important for her throughout her life, and she believes it is something Matthew valued as well.
“Matthew prayed a lot in his struggles and knew the rosary very well,” she said. “I was given a rosary by the Vatican back in November with a lovely letter saying Pope Francis prayed for him.”
Conway hopes the blessing will bring some peace to the families of other overdose victims and those struggling with addiction.
Beginning in May, Judith Conway’s display will be erected at the Courtenay Airpark to bring awareness to the issue of overdose deaths.