I along with the rest of the country have been mourning the loss of Gord Downie, I have felt actually grief and the burning of tears in my eyes. I listen to song after song on the radio as I drive the country roads back and forth to work. The reel of memories linked to the Tragically Hip from concerts I have been to, songs sung in the car and around the campfire, interviews and documentary's I have seen over the years since I was young play in the front of my mind. The band had such an influence over Canadian music; their songs were so closely linked to our history, geography and who we all are as Canadians.
I have seen articles and news stories that have reflected why we care so deeply, I have asked myself that as well. Celebrities have passed away and I have felt sad, it has touched me and I have reflected in what they meant to me over the years be it a TV show I watched, music I listen to or a movie star I have seen many times but some how this is different. It feels closer, more like a friend or family member, but why is that? I have asked myself this over the last couple days and all of the reasons I have heard have come up short. I thought at first it had a close to home feeling because I would diagnosed with cancer around the same time that he became public with his diagnosis but it wasn't that either. As I clicked on a YouTube clip of him receiving his name from the First Nations Chiefs it hit me why, and it is so simple and right in front of me. Gord's family life was never plastered in magazines or on TV. There were no rumours of drama or scandal, there was nothing that shed a light to his private life but none of that mattered because we didn't need to find out "who Gord Downie was" he full heartedly showed us. This is why it has hit so hard, Justin Trudeau said through tear filled eyes in his address to Canada as we were all learning about Gord's passing "Gord was my friend but Gord was everyone's friend."
Every lyric he wrote, movement he made, passion he had was truly him. For 30 years he opened himself up and we were able to feel with him. The last year and a half of his life was selfless in so many ways. I watch the last concert in Kingston from my couch at home with friends after receiving my third round of chemo and was in awe at how he could have even been up on that stage using as much energy as he was let alone doing it night after night on their last tour. My heart ached watch him give absolutely all he had in front of his entire country. He kissed his band mates and openly showing his love, showed the wear from his cancer treatments on his frailer body and the very visible emotions that he showed with every song. How he used this platform to speak to something he believed in. We came together that night and he showed us what we could be.
He could have taken his bow that night on that stage and closed the door to the public and we all would have understood but instead he worked, not for himself but for others. He not only spoke to reconciliation but used his art to strengthen his message, showed by example what could be done, opened his heart again and used the power of love to speak. You can see the brutal honest emotions when they give him his new name "He who walks with the stars", that is when I realized that honesty had always been there. His interview with Peter Mansbridge was open to his struggles with his memory and his fears about dying, he was not trying to impress or inspire, it was him connecting to his friend and sharing what was in his heart for all of us to hear. He was completely vulnerable in every way and showing us all how that is true strength.
So now what, as the days past after two very profound events in the last year clearly showing us a lesson we should be learning. Why does this touch us so deeply, could it be because we all know that this is what we need to be? If we all showed a little more love, a little more vulnerability, and understanding will we find the path to love our country, each other and all we are? That we can appreciate how far we have come at the same time as recognizing where we went wrong and could be better, how to heal and use our difference to come together. We had a gift given to us that we have had to let go but let a little bit of Gord Downie be in all of us as he now walks amongst the stars.