In the woods
North Preston is the largest black community in Nova Scotia by population and has the highest concentration of African Canadians in any community in Canada.
The population was 3,223 in 2021. This is a decline from 2006 when Preston had a population of 3,536.
North Preston also includes the beautiful Lake Echo in which a river flows through the community.
Ashayo was a shy, quiet, yet happy little guy. His short 10 years of life on this earth were thought to be quite uneventful.
The community in which he lived was a community of faith.
There was a sign at the beginning of the community
"We've come this far by Faith." and it was true - the community was tight. There were big church potlucks once a month, Sunday school for the children every Tuesday night, and everyone knew everyone. It was a community that took care of its own. They looked out for each other.
Tuesday, October 28 at 9 pm
Ashayo's mom sent Ashayo to brush his teeth and get into bed. A ten-year-old boy needs to get his sleep and so does she. Oh but, she was tired. Harriet was bone tired. Tired from work, tired from worry, and tired of just being sad.
He was a good boy and never had Theresa a lick of trouble, unlike his older brother Theo.
Theodore was named after his daddy rest in peace. Raising these two boys alone was hard, hard, and lonely, but she was determined to make their daddy and the good Lord proud of her and her little family - her sweet boys. They all missed him so much. It was two years since their Daddy passed but they rarely spoke his name. They were just too darn sad. They all just grieved in silence, in their own way I guess.
Theresa had worked all day until 3 pm at Fry Daze - it was a burger joint really but they also had lobster rolls and
lobster poutine and of course everyone's favorite - Fish and chips. Everyone ordered fish and chips on Friday
because everyone in the Catholic society knew you had to only eat fish on Fridays. That was the lord's law. Lake Echo was full
of fresh haddock and the restaurant owners had a brother who was a fisherman and brought the fresh fish in daily so the food was good.
Everyone knows Fry Daze was one of the only handful of restaurants in Preston. Other than that, you had
to drive into Dartmouth and you had to have a car for that. Theresa took the bus to work every day except
for Sundays because everyone know that was Lord's Day. A day of rest. And God knows
Theresa needed a rest.
They lived in an old but tidy little house on the edge of the woods. There might have been 30 houses in the whole community.
Ashayo's school was up the road about a 20-minute walk. Theresa used to walk him to school every day when his Dad was alive.
but now that he was ten and in the "double digits" and "almost a man now" as Ashayo proudly stated,
he now walked with his best friend and neighbor Denny. She worried about him. He was her baby but
she knew she had to loosen the reins and let him find his way in the world. Plus she had to get to work now.
After school, Ashayo got off the bus, walked home, and started straight away at his homework.
Momma was home by then and was busy in the kitchen starting dinner. She already had his snack laid
out waiting for him- homemade chocolate chip cookies and a big glass of milk. After supper of fried chicken
and a side of greens, he watched his favorite shows brushed his teeth, said his prayers, and went off to bed. Momma still tucked
him in and gave him kissed him goodnight every night. He didn't mind. He loved his momma.
Theresa washed up the dishes and tidied around the house. God knows when Theo would get home and she
didn't wait up anymore. He was seventeen and she just didn't know what to do with him anymore. She just had to trust in the Lord that he was safe.
She started off to bed but before she turned in, she checked on Ashayo one more time. She loved to watch her sweet
baby asleep. He looks so peaceful. He looked just like his Daddy. Oh, how she missed his Daddy.
When Theresa opened the door to his bedroom he wasn't there. She looked all around the room, under the bed, in the closet but he was nowhere to be found.
She looked in the bathroom. She looked all through the house. He was gone but where could he have gone? She looked outside around the house while calling out his name. He called Ashayo's best friend, Dany's mom but she hadn't seen Dany since that morning. Soon the neighbors heard the shouting and gathered around in the yard. Someone called 911. Theresa was beyond herself with worry. Please, Lord Jesus, Mother of God keep my baby safe, please keep my baby safe. Bring him home to me. I will do anything you ask me to, just bring him home. Then she whispered a silent prayer to her late husband- Honey keep our son safe and keep him warm and please, please show him the way home to me. Amen.
Wednesday, Oct 29th, 9 pm
Ashayo woke up in the dark and felt a soft breeze stir around his shoulders. He could hear the sound of maybe someone softly singing. The sound seemed to come from outside. He walked over to the window and pressed his ear to the window pane. it sounded like someone was whispering his name - Asha. And then he saw a kind of soft, glowing light off in the distance. He tip-toed out of his room and quietly slipped out the backdoor. It was dark and it was cold. He had his fleece pajamas on and the cold, dry leaves crunched under his bare little feet.
In the woods behind his house, he found a somewhat flattened pathway, so he followed it, mesmerized by the soft, glowing light.
Wednesday, October 29th, 12 pm.
Theresa was pacing up and down her front driveway, waiting for the police, in a panic, she was thinking about where Ashayo could have gone. Had someone taken him? Did he run away? She walked into the house to make another phone call but instead, she decided to look in his room one more time, and there he was, in his bed, sound asleep! She did a double-take - what in the world! Oh, praise the Lord! Thank you, Jesus. She was so relieved and so confused and so filled with joy. She gathered him up in the bed and started rocking him back and forth. She tucked his head right under her chin and kissed the top of his head over and over again. Ashyao slowly opened his eyes, Momma what's going on? What is wrong?
Theresa cried "Where were you? Where have you been?"
I'm okay Momma. I heard someone calling my name in my sleep and then I saw this beautiful light in the woods so I had to go. I wasn't scared Momma - The light felt safe and it was so warm Momma. It felt like, like... love. Momma? I think the light was Daddy. He told me he loved us so much and he missed us every day. He told me he was watching us and he was so proud of us Momma and he told me to tell you not to worry about Theo, that he would be okay. He just missed Daddy, but he was going to be just fine. Daddy said we need to get through this together and take care of each other. We need to talk to each other and not be afraid to show our feelings because it's okay to be sad. He said he was watching over us, Momma. He is watching over us every day and every night. It was Daddy, Momma. It was. I know It was.
Harriet cried and stroked his head over and over again as she murmured yes baby, yes baby. It was a dream baby, it was just a dream. We were both dreaming and she smiled as she brushed the fallen leaf out of his hair and then she fell into the deepest sleep she ever had in two long, long years.