A man finds peace at Nova Scotia waterfalls after one took his son
'It’s kind of a healing that I need, right now, to do this,' says Kent Mason
Four years after losing his eldest son to a waterfall, Kent Mason decided it was time to face them head-on.
"A lot of people might run away from falls, but I found that running towards them and being at a waterfall kind of made me feel close to him," said Mason, who's visited more than 60 waterfalls in Nova Scotia since February.
Kale Mason was 19 when he drowned at Park Falls near Sutherlands River in Pictou County on May 19, 2017.
It's a day Mason remembers well. The two were working together at the Halifax airport, where Mason last saw his son.
Temperatures were pushing 30 C, and Kale decided to go to the popular swimming hole with his younger brother and some friends after work.
"A lot of the time, they'd go swimming out there, it was kind of like a favourite hangout spot," said Mason.
It was shortly after a heavy rainfall. The water was high when Kale jumped in and didn't resurface.
"When he didn't come up, my other son, Kade, he tried to wade around to try to get him … he said he almost had him at one point and he slipped away again," Mason said.
"Just thank God they both didn't jump in at the same time."
'He was like my best friend'
Mason remembers his son as an "amazing kid" with a bright future. He worked as a volunteer firefighter and dreamed of joining the RCMP, he said.
"He was a great kid, he didn't exclude anybody, he made everyone feel welcome, he had a hearty laugh, he was just fun to be around," Mason said. "He was like my best friend."
Kale was also a talented athlete.
He often played baseball and rugby on the weekends, and excelled on his high school's hockey team, where he was well-known for sporting a jersey bearing the number 88. That jersey was retired after his death, said Mason.
A few months ago, Mason moved to a new place about two kilometres from the waterfall where his son died. That's when he got the idea to start visiting the waterfall.
"I would just go out, and kind of talk to him out there in the peace and quiet … I feel close to him there," he said.
"It was just beating me up, I was beating myself up, I couldn't let him go, and so it just hit me … that I gotta try to do something to remember him, and might help me at the same time."
In February, Mason decided to start visiting waterfalls around the province, bringing with him Kale's trusty baseball bat, a small tribute to leave in the water, and the undying love he still has for his son.
Mason admits it might be a bit of an unconventional way to grieve — but it helps.
"Some days I feel like [Kale] wants me to do it, some days I feel that he wants me to spend my time doing other stuff," he said.
"But for me, it's kind of a healing that I need, right now, to do this."
Dimes from heaven
Ever since Kale died, Mason has noticed a curious phenomenon: he keeps finding dimes in unexpected places. Believing they could be a message from his son, he's held on to each one.
"I had quite a collection of these dimes that he left for me," he said.
Mason now brings one with him every time he visits a waterfall, where he kisses it three times — one each for himself and his two sons.
"Then I look at the sky, say a little prayer, then I flip the dime into the waterfall. So that's kind of me giving the dime back to him," Mason said.
At this point, Mason has visited dozens of falls. He isn't sure how much longer he'll continue, but he said he at least wants to get to 88 — the number on his son's hockey jersey.
Grief is different for everyone, but Mason had a bit of advice for people who may also be grieving a loved one.
"You just gotta keep going. Keep going and think of a way to remember the ones that you're grieving."