Monday, August 22, 2011

You will be missed

It is fitting that at the exact moment I read the news that Jack Layton had died, thunder rumbled overhead and the rain began to pour. It was as if the universe was grieving along with me.

His death came as a shock and I felt as sad as I would have if a friend had died. I never met Jack Layton. I didn't know him personally. But I felt like he knew me. Or he understood what was important to me. He fought for the things I cared about. He was more of an activist than a politician, and he had a strong sense of what was right and wrong, what was fair and unfair. He fought for what was right and he fought for what was fair. He fought for human rights, social justice and the environment. He fought for ordinary people not for powerful corporations. He marched proudly in the Gay Pride Parade every single year. He rode his bicycle to work. He was kind, compassionate, and caring. He spoke plainly and honestly -- always with hope and optimism. He was funny and intelligent. He was a man who devoted his life to the greater good.

It is unfair that his life should be cut short by cancer when he was only 61 and fitter and stronger than many people half his age. But it is especially cruel that his life should be cut short just months after he managed to lead the NDP to official opposition status. The party owes its historic success to Jack's charisma. He deserved to enjoy the results of his tireless hard work for much more than a few months. He would have made an excellent Opposition leader.

What will happen to the NDP now? Who will hold our Prime Minister accountable? Who will speak with a voice as strong and persuasive and reasonable and respected as Jack's when our Prime Minister promotes policies and measures designed to make a country that once stood for peace and human rights and compassion unrecognizable? We lost Jack Layton when Canada needed him most.

Two days before he died, Jack wrote a beautiful letter addressed to all of us. His last words were the most moving:

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world."

Farewell, Jack. You will be missed.

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