I had almost completed composing my next post which chronicled a wonderful visit last Thursday to The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa with my wife Deb, my daughter Allison and her friend and fellow art historian Sharon. We went to see the international blockbuster exhibition entitled: Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome (1592-1606). But that will wait until another day.
I felt compelled to share a post which relates my deep sadness for the loss of an individual who embodies everything that is good in the world... taken far too soon at age 61... at the very pinnacle of his journey when it seemed that his vision for himself... and more importantly, for ordinary Canadians for whom he had toiled so unselfishly... would indeed come to fruition. And we all... as Canadians would be the better for it!
Jack Layton was the federal leader of The New Democratic Party and had just led his party through a tough, and very physically draining campaign for him personally in the late fall. This victory earned him the right to form and to lead the official opposition when Parliament resumed in Ottawa this September. He accomplished this huge upset... while battling prostate cancer and a recently fractured hip.
On July 25th, pale... very emaciated, but still defiant and full of the optimism that he always displayed... he called a news conference to announce to Canadians that he was stepping aside temporarily to battle a new cancer... but that he would be back in September, vowing to fight and beat the disease so that his vision could be carried on.
Yesterday, at 4:45 am in his home and with his beloved wife Olivia and close staff members... Jack Layton lost his final battle to cancer. That fact has plunged all Canadians... no matter party lines into deep grief. We all realize that we have lost some "One"... and at the very same time... something that demonstrates the very Best that can be found in Humankind... anywhere!
Many tributes have been offered unconditionally and without reservation from all parties and walks of life from across Canada. Ordinary people assembled at Parliament Hill yesterday in tribute to "Him". Former Governor General Michaelle Jean offered this tribute... which best parallels my own feelings about Jack Layton's accomplishments and his legacy to Canadians:
"Canada has lost a man of courage and great integrity who embodied the values dearest to Canadians."
And from the tributes of others I will borrow expressions which best described those "values" of which Michaelle Jean attributed to Jack Layton: fundamental decency... passionate dedication...love of country... courageous... legacy of commitment... humanity... a rare state of grace... and that list is endless.
But perhaps the greatest measure of the man is revealed in a letter that he wrote to his fellow Canadians just two days before his life ended. In facing the prospect of his life ending... and separation forever from Olivia... he composed this magnanimous and immeasurably powerful letter to be read to all Canadians. His last message was to be one of thanks, hope to fellow cancer patients, political colleagues, Quebecers and finally for all Canadians.
Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one - a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can all do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change...
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.
The Truth and eloquence of these words and the man is unparalleled in my lifetime as a Canadian... and most especially words from the mouth of a politician. The message is something that "I" will carry forward with "Me"and put into practice. I aim to dedicate a larger part of my time to working towards seeing his vision accomplished... using my own energy and talents.
The profession of politics can truly become an Art form... when it is carried out with passion... with integrity and commitment over a lifetime. Jack Layton has taken politics to an art form level... and his wondrous and joyous life is to be celebrated as a great Canadian Masterpiece!
I hope that this message inspires all of you to live your life fully... to reach out... to persevere... to share your gifts... to make life... wherever you might live better! Therein lies the Hope for mankind and the world no matter your politics or country of origin!
God bless and embrace "You" Jack!