Canadian Hero

Mark ran in his very first Terry Fox run yesterday. It was such a gorgeous sunny day and it was so inspiring to see the kids bringing in Toonies for Terry, running their hearts out, proudly collecting their hand stamps for each lap completed. Privately I looked at the size of the field and wondered how many laps the kindergarteners would actually complete, but Mark ran seven, and I was so proud of him.

The remainder of the day, predictably, was spent discussing Terry Fox’s legacy. I don’t know about you, but I really struggle with finding a balance between being honest without being frightening, especially at this age, where kids tend to be so black and white. I myself was the type of child who would focus on imminent disaster and worst-case scenarios. I clearly recall Fire Safety Week at my elementary school, when a visiting firefighter casually mentioned a statistic that all Canadians would at some point be affected by a fire in their lives. He may as well have told me that my house was going to burn down tomorrow. I was terrified about fire for years after and had frequent nightmares. I also have a major thing for firefighters. Is it the uniform? The ability to save people? The bravery? I don’t know, but hubba hubba.

Back to the subject at hand. How do you talk to young children about death and illness? I told them that when Terry Fox was doing the Marathon of Hope, people gave him money which he then used to help sick people. The questions kept coming all day, including “How did he get cancer?” I had been fairly clear and honest about all previous questions, but that one threw me. I tried to focus on his heroism, but I found it impossible to keep from getting teary-eyed.

Terry Fox was someone’s son, someone’s baby. He was a true hero. Later, I watched the boys in the back yard running laps, playing “Terry Fox Run”, I looked at their healthy bodies, their healthy legs, and I cried with gratitude.

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