You died this morning. The news said you died surrounded by family and friends. I like to imagine, somewhere deep in that soul that gave so much to us over the years, that you know you were surrounded by millions of your fellow Canadians as well. You helped us understand our country, Gord. Hell, you helped us define it, too.
We all knew this day was coming. Thank you for making it easier on us. You spent this past year or so fighting for things beyond your health and self interests. You embodied a dedication towards the First Nations communities that I've never seen from a white person in my lifetime. You put our prime minister on the spot so that whenever he makes a decision he will know that you made him think about the consequences. You did that for our country... for the consciousness of our nation so that we may be able to uplift the communities we've ignored for too long.
Our ears, our hearts and our collective sadness can still hear you.
You did all that with a terminal disease, and we love you for it.
I'm not in shock today. As I type this sentence the news of your death is still less than 30 minutes old. I can feel it coming, though. I can see a wall of tears in the not-so-distant future. I can hear cars playing your music. I can see my own memories bombarding me, taking me back to that sweet spot of my youth where I would either revel in triumph or egregiously fail. But in either case, I could always turn to you, fully... completely.
I didn't hang posters of you on my wall. I didn't even own all your albums. I didn't have to. Your role in my wonder years was more like a guide than a celebrity or rock star, reminding me of national treasures and our history, warts and all. Jesus, I never even went to see you perform live. It would have been nice, but I didn't have to see the fleshy you in order to process the spiritual you. Your voice, which I once described as the voice Canada would possess if this nation could sing, can finally rest. But our ears, our hearts and our collective sadness can still hear you. We hear you, man. And we already miss you.
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I just spoke with a dear friend on the phone who told me he was in tears driving to work. I know there are countless others doing the same thing, clutching that steering wheel, listening to "Ahead By a Century" — or "Wheat Kings," or "Fiddler's Green," or "Long Time Running" — and reflecting on the space you are leaving behind.
You need to know something about that space. You need to know what you did for us.
Your example is now carved into the fabric of us all. You took the certainty of your own death and translated that energy into a quest of selflessness that I haven't seen since another icon, also ravaged by cancer, tried to run across this country of ours. Wounded, dying, you still gave us our tough medicine, showing us the answers of how to become a united Canada — through the acknowledgment and the undertaking of righting our historical wrongs, once and for all.
This is your legacy to us. Your legacy is love. I don't even feel silly or flakey when I say that out loud.
Gord, your legacy is love.
Rest now, Mr. Downie. You've earned it.
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