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Nova Scotia Strong

On the heels of writing a reflection on encouragement to lament, April 18th and 19th, 2020 brought Canada  and especially Nova Scotians forcefully into this painful liminal space. My beautiful province was launched into the international spotlight as the backdrop for senseless violence; not for its natural and abundant beauty. The tiny rural town of Portapique nestled in Colchester county, a mere hundred and thirty kilometers from Halifax, experienced carnage that was unheard of in Canada until that fatal weekend. This quaint town situated on the shores of the powerful Bay of Fundy, home to the world’s highest tides, now also holds the memory of Canada's worst mass shooting.  

5 towns, 22 innocent adults, an adolescent and an unborn baby; dead. 

Just last summer I cycled through the breathtaking vistas of Portapique which marked the beginning of a journey covering this shoreline of Nova Scotia. The raw beauty of the landscape, the open road, the friendly waves from people in the scattered houses that dot the highway and the lull of the ocean are etched in my memory.

Now, the highway is dotted with memorials and crime scenes.     

How could this happen in my Nova Scotia? We are all asking ourselves this unanswerable question. My tangled mind is desperately searching for some semblance of hope but is overwhelmed with fear, anger, and sadness, the recipe for lament. Again. Here again. My hope has been ground to dust. 

After this event, I picked up Lewis Smedes’ book, Keeping Hope Alive, and read that ‘memory feeds hope’. How, I thought? Instead of the peaceful scenes of my memories, the areas now hold  crime scenes and remnants of rampant violence. What hope is left? There are aching families, friends and communities, which include my friend who lost an aunt. It also includes friends from my church who had to hide in their house during the rampage because they were in the town where the gunman was finally killed by the police. Where is the hope there?           

Memory Feeds Hope. 

That’s all I could meditate on and wonder about the wisdom in it. Every day since that weekend has felt both meaningless and meaningful. I guess that’s what lamenting is; a sorrowful journey in hope. Everywhere since then, signs have popped up in store advertising and home windows, Nova Scotia Strong. For me, that means we are strong enough to hope because we are being held by God. To reach hope, we need to lament - in Nova Scotia and around the world.              

Will you pray this prayer my pastor, Dave Vroege prayed in the online service the weekend after the shooting? 

“Oh God, you search our hearts, and you know us through and through. Wherever we are no matter how near or far; you are there. However we think and feel, no matter how high or low, you know and understand. In our grief and shock, our minds are a tangled mess of conflicting thoughts. And our hearts are overwhelmed with pain. We ask questions for which there seem to be no answers. We experience grief for which there seems to be no consolation. Oh God, we are hurt so deeply, it seems beyond words. All we need, all we ask in this dark moment is that you hold us close and not let us go. Embrace us and love us Lord even in our terrible pain. For somehow we know that in your embrace, healing will finally come. Somehow we know that through your care, our broken hearts will know a gentle mending through Jesus Christ our risen savior.”   

Photos provided by the author 

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