I am a pretty patriotic person. My husband Josh often makes fun of me for it. But I don’t care because I fucking love this country. I feel so grateful that out of all of the places in the world, that I was born here. We are not perfect and we have a lot of work to do, but for the most part, I am truly proud to be from Canada. Another truly proud Canadian was Gord Downie.
Like the rest of you, I woke up on Wednesday to the news that Gord Downie had passed away last night. While I initially felt sad, I also had that practical sense in me that said we all knew that this would happen. We knew that he was sick. We knew that this day would come. Death is a part of our every breath. It’s something that we are aware of. One of my first memories in this life is from when I was a funeral when I was about four years old.
I was sad hearing this news that morning. I was sad that this great force no longer graced this country. This earth. But it wasn’t until I saw the press conference of our Prime Minister breaking down, with real tears, talking about “our buddy Gord” that the magnitude of this man really hit me.
As I drove to a photo shoot that day the radio station Indie 88 was playing a tribute to Gord Downie. Listeners were sending both their Tragically Hip requests and their donations to The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. As I drove past BMO Field where the Toronto FC play soccer and the Ricoh Colosseum, their billboards had tributes to him. As I arrived at my shoot, a corporate function, a celebration at a bank, The Tragically Hip played for the entire first hour. A tribute. Three separate entities with their own worlds and communities and demographics playing tribute to this one man.
Admittedly, I don’t own any Hip music. But really, I didn’t need to. Their songs are everywhere. Ingrained in our Canadian ears. You don’t need to own the music to know the words by heart. To know Gord’s poetry. To know his truths. I saw him perform at Daniel Lanois’ Harvest Picnic in 2011. He was mesmerizing to watch up there on that stage. You literally couldn’t take your eyes off of him. He didn’t project the ego that most people contain as they grow large in their statures. Instead, he had this power, this pull that made you want to be in his presence and listen to what he had to say. You knew that whatever he said would be profound and would contain all the truth – especially the hard ones, the ones that we are often too afraid to acknowledge. But the one that we know are so very necessary to speak.
He embraced life fully and this is what we can learn from Gord Downie. He did it. He balanced a beautiful family life while also being a huge figure on our Canadian stage. He was a role model. He acknowledged death. He walked alongside it with life. And he knew that no matter what, you make the most of what you have everyday. He was a force to be reckon with.
Gord Downie was full of goodness. Gord Downie was someone whom we should all aim to be.
Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for giving a voice to those who needed it. Thank you for your legacy and for your push, your insistence, that we all do better for ourselves and for this great country. We will do better because of you.