A Hard Old World

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. Georges 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 sat by the fire savouring 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 would be as unbearable for a family and community as it would be at Christmas.

Parents know this in their bones.

Know the realization that strikes at otherwise peaceful moments like a clamp on the nerves of your soul: We can't protect them from everything.

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 sons don't know what death is. But they will learn. Like all of our children, they will learn that the world isn't what we wanted for them.

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

Aaron Beswick