‘Tears were shed across the prov­ince’


My son sat in my lap call­ing “Merry Christ­mas” from the top of his two-year-old lungs to wide-eyed chil­dren lin­ing Main Street.

For the past three weeks our lit­tle com­mu­nity on St. Ge­orge’s Bay had been toil­ing in se­crecy on our float. Antigonish’s Christ­mas pa­rade has be­come one of Jim­town’s great an­nual events.

The lob­ster trap trailer we’d con­verted into a brightly lit Cape Is­lan­der – with scav­enged planks, par­tially de­com­posed ply­wood and a can of half-price paint – car­ried four of our com­mu­nity’s six chil­dren.

To­gether with our rick­ety boat we were a drop of wa­ter in a river of spirit that flowed through Antigonish on Satur­day night. Each brightly lit float was the prod­uct of hours of care by com­mu­nity groups and lo­cal busi­nesses pool­ing their ef­forts into the cre­ation of a larger magic.

Fi­nally home, I car­ried Sawyer sleep­ing from the truck into the kitchen table where my wife put a bowl of yo­gurt and ce­real be­fore his bleary eyes to en­sure he had some­thing solid in his small tummy be­fore bed.

I was sat by the fire sa­vor­ing the evening’s mem­o­ries when she stood be­side me and put a hand on my shoul­der.

“A four year old died tonight at a pa­rade in Yar­mouth,” she said qui­etly enough that Sawyer wouldn’t hear.

Quiet tears were shed across this prov­ince on Satur­day night. At a time of year when we all col­lec­tively pull to­gether to cre­ate the kin­der world we wish could be a re­al­ity, the hor­ror ap­pears in sharper re­lief.

But the loss of a child must be an ab­so­lute pain.

A child’s death in June must be as un­bear­able for a fam­ily and com­mu­nity as it would be at Christ­mas.

Par­ents know this in their bones. They know the re­al­iza­tion that strikes at oth­er­wise peace­ful mo­ments like a clamp on the nerves of their soul: you can’t pro­tect them from ev­ery­thing.

Death vis­its with ter­ri­fy­ing whimsy. There are plat­i­tudes kicked around about this. That we must love bravely.

But it’s not courage when we have no choice in the mat­ter.

Lov­ing chil­dren is not some­thing we choose to do. It is a part of us – in­evitable as the next beat of our hearts.

What is brave is what Yar­mouth and com­mu­ni­ties hold­ing Christ­mas parades across Nova Sco­tia were at­tempt­ing to do on Satur­day night. To cre­ate, even if just for an hour, a kin­der world. A world where bright young faces hud­dle to­gether along small town streets to be bathed as one in won­der and joy.

My son doesn’t know what death is.

But he will learn.

Like all of our chil­dren, he will learn that the world isn’t what we wanted for them.

Yet I still hope it doesn’t pre­vent him from string­ing up lights each year when this sa­cred sea­son comes.

Kristy Her­ron’s col­umn was not avail­able this week.

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