YARMOUTH, N.S. — A seven-year-old boy was remembered Monday as "an old, wise soul" who gazed in wonder at the stars and imagined clouds were heaven's islands, as family members said goodbye at the funeral for one of four children killed in a Nova Scotia house fire.
"You met him once and you would never forget him," Mason Grant's father, Jeremy Grant, said in a eulogy read by Rev. Adriaan James Plaizier, the pastor at Yarmouth Wesleyan Church.
More than 600 people attended the second of three funerals from the devastating fire that swept through a fisherman's home two weeks ago. Mason died Jan. 7 while staying overnight at the Pubnico Head residence.
Jeremy Grant's eulogy described Mason as an active boy who loved outdoor activities such as hunting — and who asked for a list on how to be a good big brother after he learned his little sister was on the way.
"I hope you hold those memories close to you and you use them to get through this hard time," he said.
Michel Boudreau read Mason's mother's recollection of lying with her son looking up at the sky.
"We used to lay on the grass and watch the clouds pass by and I remember you asking me if the beautiful, huge puffy clouds were heaven's islands ... I'll never forget hunting for fairies with you, and star gazing with you," said the mother's eulogy.
"You had something so magical about you, you are such an old, wise soul."
Hundreds of people had gathered Sunday at a chapel in Barrington, N.S., for a service for seven-year-old Mya Prouty, while a joint service is being held Tuesday for four-month-old Winston Prouty and four-year-old Jayla Kennedy.
Monday's service opened with the Elton John song "Tiny Dancer," which Plaizier said was the boy's favourite song.
Rev. Mitchell DeWare, a 36-year-old Baptist minister who has been providing pastoral care to the family, said during prayer that the tragedy continues to take a heavy toll on the small communities of the families.
He called on the friends and family members to "lean in" to one another and offer mutual care and assistance as they go through various forms of pain, sadness, numbness, fear and anger.
"Heavenly Father, this tears the heart out. This last couple of weeks has shaken the lives of so many people in this room and those who can't be here today. We're hurting and some of us hurt very badly," he prayed.
Both DeWare and Plaizier said in interviews that they wished to convey a message of Christian hope amidst the sadness, while giving mourners the opportunity to grieve deeply.
"It's all the more important to remember your faith foundation when your world is crumbling beneath your feet," said Plaizier in an interview from his office prior to the service.
Plaizier has been providing pastoral care to Emma Kennedy and Phillip Prouty, who both managed to get out of the house after the fire started raging.
"The wounds are so raw, and everybody wants to help ... but the family aren't sure what they need now. There is still just a gaping wound," the minister said.
Kennedy and Prouty are the parents of four-month old Winston Prouty.
According to obituaries, Phillip Prouty is also the father of seven-year-old Mya Prouty, while Mya's mother is Tamera Smith. An obituary says Kennedy is the mother of four-year-old Jayla Kennedy, and Jayla's father is Joshua Renouf.
Plaizier described Mason Grant as a cousin to the other children, but couldn't provide complete details of the relationships.
A fire marshall's report on the cause of the blaze is expected within days with recommendations on fire safety, but police have ruled out foul play in the tragedy.
Fundraising efforts were continued Monday in several communities, with the latest at Dennis Point Cafe in Lower West Pubnico.
Restaurant owner Vernon D'Eon donated a day's worth of his restaurant's food sales to the families.
"It's a small community here. The Prouty family have been in our community for hundreds of years. ... These people have nothing, they have the clothes on their backs. Everything else went," he said.
— By Michael Tutton in Halifax