I’ve just returned from the candlelight vigil on Mont-Royal to observe the passing of NDP leader Jack Layton.. I wasn’t planning on going. I literally found myself turning off the lights in my home, locking the door and walking the few blocks to the meeting spot. And I stood there and observed. I allowed all the emotion swirling around the people gathered there to wash through me, and I allowed my sadness at his passing to mingle with it and recirculate through the crowd. I stood there alone, and then, like it had been previously rehearsed, two people standing directly on either side of me turned around, put their arms around me, and I found myself in the company of Kay & Yvan, students from Luna yoga, but more importantly, friends of mine. And we stood there taking it all in, understanding the significance of the moment and the magnitude of the energy resulting from the passing of this great man.
Let’s talk about Jack Layton…for just a brief moment. The man had focus. He had conviction. He had vision. He had charisma. He had courage. Most of all, though, he had the spark of humanity that seems to be eluding most, if not all, of our current government leaders. Regardless of your political affiliations, and regardless of what you thought of Layton’s policies, the man walked the walk. He understood the importance of not only believing in something, but having the courage to stand up and put yourself in front of millions of people to speak your truth and communicate your vision. At the risk of being torn apart, and torn apart he has been, Jack tirelessly stepped up. He made himself seen…and heard…and he spoke up for people whose voices are regarded as insignificant by our current Prime Minister. He worried less about lining his own pockets, and literally put himself out there for the greater good of Canadians, and for the world we all live in. He was the anti-Harper. He gave us hope that even if and when she-who-shall-not-be-named announces her candidature for US presidency, the political climate South of the border won’t dissuade Canadians from demanding change from the people who are supposed to be protecting and leading us.
In my opinion, Layton was the antidote to the emptiness and vacuousness of our current Conservative leader. He reminded us that the basic fabric of existence – how we live, how we take care of each other, and how we interact – is where we should be focusing. That the world we live in is begging for attention. That just because we age doesn’t mean we immediately slip into oblivion. As a painter’s work of art inevitably skyrockets in value after his or her death, I believe that Jack Layton’s words will resonate and continue to do so, rippling outwards from the core of his followers to people from all walks of life and political affiliations. The outpouring of love and prayer and grief from his death shows me that when we take a second to focus on that which really matters, that which is permanent and transcends race, social status, and geography, we are all the same. Jack Layton spoke to the humanity in each and every one of us. Let him rise to martyrdom. Let his party continue to flourish, and pay homage to him. The man whose cancer did not stop him from making himself heard will live on through all of us, because what happens to one of us happens to us all. We are all better for having had him grace us with his energy. Let that energy live on.