The place is packed. It’s an hour and a half before the band gets on, but the place is already filled. People of all different ages, ethnicities, and identities are in church. Reverend Downie is presiding. Hallelujah. It’s going to be amazing.
It’s funny when something is chosen deliberately by so many people. The band comes on, and without having to sing a note or so much as smile in their general direction, the crowd is on their feet. Canadians feel a special bond with the Hip. They’re ours and we’re theirs. The crowd chooses for the night to be magnificent. Because they love the Hip. Because they love Gord. And because this is his goodbye to us, to beauty, and to life. And the strength of that gesture was so powerful that we wept.
They play everything. Gord sings his heart out. Gord sings so well, and moves with such incredible grace and life that you’re in disbelief that this man is terminally ill. You look at him and think “there’s no way. No freaking way” while he’s singing and tearing your guts out. The ground is shaking as you abandon reason and rock out in a demonstration against injustice, against sickness, against cancer.
Gords’ illness only supports something we have long known to be true. That it’s always the good ones who get cancer or die suddenly. The very good, the very brave, the very decent, all die too young. And everyone else just kind of shuffles along getting a little worse over time till the only thing that’s left is a memory.
I can’t help but thinking, why is he here tonight? Why isn’t he at home hid away from the world? And the only answer I have is that he’s an exceptional human being. That this man is playing his last shows, in an extremely fragile state of health, and he’s giving all of us a chance to say goodbye. He’s giving us a portion of his life, his art, and his love. And I don’t know that we deserve it as an audience, as a people, as individuals, but that gesture makes me want to be worthy of his artistry and precious limited time on this earth.
Because all of us will die. But the greatest among us take even that process to a place of incredible beauty, so that they do not fade as a wisp, but explode like a firecracker. Their last moments of life so brilliant that a part of them will exist forever. Lighting up our dreams and brightening our hearts.
Thank you Gord. You taught us all about life by living yours so wonderfully.