What’s on your mind?
Not sure how to summarize what I experienced last night, August 20th, 2016. There was so much to absorb, so many moments that made it one of the best events I have ever been part of. It was uniquely Canadian. Something special.
There was the spirit of kindness in the building. While massed together at the merchandise table, the crowd split to let a man in a wheelchair through. Another fan, two cans in hands raised in the air said, “My girlfriend is at the front and she needs a beer!” We as a group laughed and let him through. Perhaps it was the polite people all around asking where I was from or when was the last time or first time I had experienced the Tragically Hip.
You had to smile as we sung at the top of our collective lungs. Hit after hit causing memories to rush back into my head. Where was I when I first heard “Ahead by a Century”? It affected me on a different level. I didn’t expect it to.
I had been to the Spirit of West concert last year at Massey Hall (also their last major concert). It was sad to see John Mann struggle to sing the lyrics to the songs he had written. Anthems I had cherished so deeply for not just years but decades. His Alzheimer’s slowly depriving him of the connection to the life he held so dearly for his entire life. That was a moving experience for sure. Sad.
The last show forever, that’s what this concert was billed as. Why? Brain Cancer. I know all to well the impact of that horrible disease. Of the devastation that it can and usually does bring to the individual that the is diagnosed and to their family and friends.
When Gord Downie was diagnosed and told it was terminal, that he was given an “expiry date” he decided to go out on his terms. To do what he loved to do, Connect with the people and places that gave him life not took it. As Gord said at the concert, for pushing him to keep going.
I was there. At the show, so lucky and blessed to be in attendance. To watch Downie sing with all the energy he could muster, which was a genuine struggle at times. I was mesmerized. Jaw dropped at his courage. I would raise my hands in the air as if praying to some sort of god. We all did. The Canadian Prime Minister only a 150 feet away from me sang along with every lyric just as I did. We all did. This was a moment in time. A deposit in the proverbial memory bank.
This isn’t a review of the concert. I loved it. It was truly STUpendous. It was watched across the entire country. Millions, in fact more than 11.5 million tuned in. That’s 1/3 of the country almost. More than the Stanley Cup or the Jays playoff run. That’s huge. Something that no American, no offence, could understand. It’s a Canadian thing.
The point of this BLOG is to thank Gord, Rob, Paul, Johnny for supporting their leader. Allowing him to decide his last road trip. What a decision. What would you or I do?
I think back to when my dear friend Laura Hamilton when she was fighting cancer. As her life was winding down she had so much courage and grace too. I remember once, a few months before she passed we went for a slow walk around the neighbourhood. She turned to me and said, “How lucky am I?” when I questioned her as to what she meant she replied, “I get to say goodbye to everyone I love. To tell them to their face, thank you. You meant the world to me.”
That’s a powerful human that can see and appreciate that. To live and to die that way. I hope one day, when my time comes, if given the opportunity to have the chance to say “goodbye”. I will be as wise and have the strength to do what Gord Downie, John Mann, Oliver Schroeder (ask Peter Katz) and my dearest friend Laura did.
They may have been SCARED, but they had the COURAGE to show that GRACE too.
Thanks Gord and the Tragically Hip for being part of Candian History you are leaders.
Feel free to share. As Gord and the guys have for 28 years.