Saturday, August 27, 2011

Adieu good and faithful servant

In the early hours of August 22, 2011 while I and my fellow bloggers and admirers of Richard Armitage were just starting our worldwide celebration of our favourite actor's birthday, the life force was ebbing away from one of Canada's most beloved citizens.  Jack Layton, newly elected leader of Canada's official opposition succumbed to cancer and Canadians from all over this country, from every walk of life, of every age, gender, race, religion, first language and political stripe were dismayed and deeply saddened.

My nephew put it very well, he said, "It kinda feels like Canada has lost a Dad."

Jack Layton was that for us.  He was an incredible leader who inspired and mentored others, who did what was right and yet always had time for people: his fellow Canadians, his constituents, his colleagues, his friends and most especially his family.  As I watched his state funeral today, I was struck by the outpouring of love from the huge crowd at Roy Thompson Hall and that even larger crowd outside.  In Toronto, Canada's largest city, and earlier in Ottawa, our nation's capital, but also in other cities and towns across this vast and varied nation, people needed to join together to celebrate his generous life and mourn his passing.

To me he was the embodiment of the phrase: Think Global, Act Local.  Everything he did was from a personal wish for a better world, a better life for everyone.  He started with the simpler things (but not necessarily the easier things).  He cultivated a solid family life. Although he was divorced from his first partner, he was able to find a new love with fellow politician Olivia Chow.  The eulogy from his two grown children, Mike and Sarah was testament to what a wonderful father he was.

Besides the family testaments, there were several other very moving parts of the ceremony for me. The first was the blessing by the Chief of The Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo. Let me assure you, this type of tribute is a huge honour which is not the kind of thing that happens very often, especially for a politician!

Sorry this video is not available anymore. Please click here to watch it on

The eulogy by Stephen Lewis, a Canadian icon himself and the son of David Lewis, a former leader of the New Democratic Party, was deeply touching.  He had a difficult time getting everything out that he wanted to say not only because his emotions were very close to the surface, but also because he was interrupted many times by applause and even several standing ovations. Click here to view a video of this speech.

The musical tributes were very special too.  Stephen Page (formerly of the Barenaked Ladies) sang Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah;  Lorraine Segato performed a soulful reworking of her anthem Rise Up; and Julie Michels provided a stirring rendition of Get Together as his casket was carried from the building.

An excerpt of the ceremony from the television coverage I watched today:

Phylly's Top Five Reasons to admire Jack Layton:

1. His love for his wife and "soul mate"

2. His "Man of the People" quality

Watch this interview where Rick Mercer tours Jack's home

3. His caring for people and for the quality of life

Jack proved his committment to Health care in this CBC video Make the Politician Work

4. His  joy for life ...

and his quirkiness!

5. His incredible optimistic spirit and his ability to inspire others.

Thank you Jack!  Canada will miss you.

 More Tributes:


Anonymous said...

Beautiful tribute Phylly. We really lost an incredible man and leader. He will be sorely missed. It was very moving to watch the funeral today but also all the tributes that have been pouring in this past week since we heard of his death. I hope it brings some comfort to his family and friends.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, Phylly. Jack is a hero in our family. In hope that his ideals and application of them continue.


Phylly3 said...

@calexora -- I so agree. I don't know how anyone could possibly fill his shoes. It is a great loss.

@fitzg-- If he wasn't a hero before, he certainly is one now! His life is a lesson to us all.

JaneGS said...

That was a lovely and moving tribute. Sounds like a helluva guy, and one who will be sorely missed. What an incredible role model for leaders everywhere.

My condolences.

Phylly3 said...

@JaneGS - Yes, if all politicians were as good as person as he was, the world would be a much better place.

Traxy said...

Read another tribute the other day on another blog. He sounds like a great man, and a great loss to Canada and the world. Have to admit, I know nothing about him at all, but the Star Trek get up is fab and his handwriting (on that signature) looks great!

Phylly3 said...

@Traxy - Thanks for your comment Traxy. Sorry, I thought I had answered your comment already.
Yes, Jack hadn't really hit the world stage yet. He might have had the chance as the Leader of the Opposition to make a bit of a name for himself outside this country. But he certainly made his presence felt here!