I am sorry Nova Scotia

“I’m sorry.’ The two most inadequate words in the English language.” » Beth Revis

What is wrong with me?

I have barely commented on the abject tragedy and senseless loss of 22 precious lives (excluding the murderer) that occurred this past weekend in our Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Have I even posted a single news article on that? Have I reached out to an old university friend who lives in Halifax? How much space does it even occupy in my consciousness? Have I even adequately grieved for the loss of life for my fellow Canadians?

It is not like I am absent from current events. I am one of those self-labeled (oh how I hate labels) “news junkies” and I have always taken time to be aware of geopolitical events because it is very much who I am. I engross myself in politics including a cross-section of sociological and ecological affairs including both the good and the bad. And for those of you who have seen any of my social media posts during and since the massacre in Nova Scotia, you know I have been posting articles and opinions on everything from COVID-19, the stock markets, fear and recently a piece on how to overcome sadness during isolation. Of course, I have opined on Trump and his incoherent Dear Leader rants from his daily and useless press conferences. But virtually nothing on the Nova Scotia massacre. I repeat, what is wrong with me?

I was shaken to my core after the Danforth shooting (here in my city of Toronto) which killed two innocents in July 2018. I rode my bike down to the scene of the murders a few days later to more thoroughly absorb that tragedy.

I was horrified and incensed in April 2018 when the Toronto van attack occurred and killed 10 people.

The Parliament Hill shooting of October 2014 in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo and I was mortified by the Corporal’s pointless death. I praised our national hero Ken Vickers who valiantly ended that attack along with other authorities.

It was before social media, but I vividly recall the horror of what transpired at Montreal’s École Polytechnique in December 1989, brutally killing 14 women in a vicious misogynistically motivated mass murder. Several years later as the father of three daughters, this tragedy hit home for me even more as it does every memorial anniversary of this attack.

I know what is different and I do not need to spell that out for you. I am preoccupied as are we all. I have a whole host of fears just like you and my mind is imagining many contrasting scenarios of what this all could mean to me – to all of us.

The other day I was speaking with a friend about my guilt over this. I mentioned that we humans have an unlimited capacity for love, or so we have been told. If we are blessed to have children, we love each one and do not run out of love if another and another come along. And when grandchildren arrive in our family, lo and behold, we have more love to give to them without diminishing the love that we already hold within our hearts for family and friends that were here before. But what of fear? What about grief? For this do we have unlimited capacity as well?

That is the proverbial million-dollar question. The answer may be no, we do not. We are operating on sensory overload during these unprecedented times. I might not be the only one who has fallen to the same malady as there are undoubtedly more who harbor the same guilt as do I.

I can only conclude that LOVE is more powerful than fear, and LOVE is the most potent of feelings and emotions. We continue to do good deeds through love even as we ourselves are in need. We have the power of love to care for the sick when in fact our health is inferior. At our breaking point, love propels us to dig even deeper to care for our loved ones. In despair, we protect those closest to us at the cost of our own peril because of the love we possess for them.

So why was my love for my fellow Canadians in Nova Scotia not enough? Maybe it was. Perhaps my love spirited me to dig a little deeper and has driven me to write this. That love has enabled me to acknowledge my error, my lapse in judgement, because perhaps I was in a rough place for a couple of days.

I am so sorry Nova Scotia. I am deeply sorry for your tragedy. I wish a speedy and complete recovery to the injured, my condolences to the families and dear friends of the deceased, and may all those innocents who perished, rest in peace.

On the other side …

Life is about change. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s beautiful. But most of the time, it’s both.

Lana Lang


The new normal or the new strange? One of my old friends from the UK suggested to me that a “new strange” would be a more apt phraseology of the post-transition period. What will it look like when we get to the other side of this? That is the common speculative talk – you have been a part of those discussions as well. Our ideas are plentiful, our conjecture mixed with optimism and pessimism. Will we always be wearing masks? Will we be watching the competition of sports teams played before empty stadiums and arenas? Will the shaking of hands be a custom of the past? Will packed restaurants only be something we see in movies filmed pre 2020? Will planes fly with at one-third to one-half capacity – at double the cost or more of pre COVID-19 days? Will our taxes skyrocket to pay for the extraordinary borrowing by our government during these unprecedented times? And on and on …

Many, including myself, have observed a collective expression of societal gratitude, admiration and appreciation to not only the front-line healthcare professionals but also to those holding down duties of labour allowing the many to shop. They are clerks, truckers, delivery people, restaurants open for takeout, warehouse workers and all the other affiliated and supporting functions required for us to buy the needs of our daily living and if I may say so – our very survival. THEY are keeping our supply chain flowing while the “many” stay home either working from home (the truly fortunate) or the abruptly unemployed. And quietly, our clergy, while they are not guiding us in houses of worship as they once were, they are performing perhaps their most sacred of tasks – presiding over funerals and burials sometimes without family present.

The tone on social media conveys a pronounced softening, kindness and helpfulness in us, does it not? A categorization of life’s priorities is being reshaped as well. Never in most of our lifetimes have our needs and wants been more dissected and evaluated than they are today. We are rethinking who are heroes ought to be and more emphatically who they ought not to be. Our resiliency as human beings is shining as is our adaptability. To most of us, ZOOM connoted something entirely different a couple of months ago than it does today but we are embracing it.

Our appreciation for connectedness may have never been stronger than during this period of separation and isolation.

Wouldn’t it be euphoric if on the other side society changed for the better? That somehow, we carried these positive emotions and gratitude towards essential workers EVERY DAY, we forsake wants and worked only for our needs, we paid nurses what lawyers make, store clerks made a living wage and persons humanity to person became the norm across society. All would be beautiful. Home after home would be lined by white picket fences, there would be no crime and cancer was cured.

Just like President Trump’s gap regarding what happened in February, there is an abyss in this dialogue from what is happening today and what we will have suffered on our travels upon arriving at the other side …

Therefore, what we seem to be ignoring in most of these conversations is the pain and the loss we will endure. I think partly because “it” has not struck many within our immediate circle of reality – yet. We learn of this loss as the full array of numbers are reported daily. I read earlier that someone compared the reports of the “daily death toll” from COVID-19 to viewing the American evening news in the 1970s as the news anchors broadcasted the daily tally of US service personnel killed in Viet Nam. For the most part, faceless, soulless soldiers … just a number. Today, along with the COVID-19 death toll is the analysis of whether the curve is flattening or if there is a surge. We are talking about fucking people who by the way are dying alone!! Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents and friends, dead! Will we end up as one of these faceless, soulless numbers?

I am not a black and white guy. It has not been an easy journey for me to arrive here, but I am now usually and firmly grey. That is why I chose the introductory quote to this piece by Lana Lang. Yes, I do have tremendous optimism that we will experience a re-awakening as I have confidence in the ultimate goodness of the human soul. I can envisage our collective growth emanating from this pandemic. But I do not expect it to be without earning our own trauma. I anticipate it will scar most of us. However, we will change.

Life is about change. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s beautiful. But most of the time, it’s both, on the other side …

Are you wearing shoes?

So much has changed in just a few short weeks

Missing our favourite restaurants and shopping boutiques

We can’t watch our sports and cheer for our teams

While attempting to work amongst our kid’s screams

There are Zoom meetings, Zoom Seders and Zoom family check-ins

And our investment portfolios are playing little violins

No touching. No touching. OMG NO TOUCHING

I can’t wait to get back to some serious clutching

So what is with all this hoarding and over-shopping?

At least I am learning about product swapping

And speaking of learning and acquiring new skills too

Like mask designing, cooking and making our own do

Anyone bored or wondering how to get by?

Like me writing a poem that only makes you cry?

How many funny memes can you share in one day?

People have an overabundance of time to play

But along with the jokes there is a time to be serious

We are dealing with a virus that’s terribly deleterious

It is life-threatening and lifestyle impacting

The hardest part of all is the absence of interacting

So what do you miss the most and miss the least?

And where has your gratitude significantly increased?

With doctors, nurses and front-line staff?

Or athletes and celebs, that makes me laugh

So many poor, who lost their jobs and have no money

For the first time, I really wish there was an Easter Bunny

I ache for the homeless and people dying alone

And I’m angry at politicians lacking a backbone

I have a couple of questions remaining to ask …

Over the next few weeks what shall be your greatest task?

With negativity and fear are you singing the blues?

And during these most difficult days, are you wearing shoes?