If the measures of a life well-lived is your impact on people and the legacy you leave behind, Gord Downie packed more than most into his 53 years on this earth.
It has been heartening to hear stories of Downie—the enigmatic and eclectic leader of the Tragically Hip—in the days after his death to brain cancer. He was many things in his life: Poet, singer, dancer, activist, but perhaps his best trait is just as a good person.
If you don’t know someone with an ‘I met Gord story’ then you won’t have to go far to find people touched by his kindness.
But for all of the accolades, the music, the songs, the memories that Gord Downie left us with, it was in the last years of his life that he made the most impact. He was a bright shining light and when cancer came calling, he decided to shine that light on Canada, the country he had immortalized in song over an incredible career.
Downie’s work to publicize issues resulting from Canada’s residential school fiasco was the last part of his legacy and one that should live on as we move forward, along with all of the music.
“The man who walks among the stars” is such a glorious name that the Assembly of First Nations bestowed upon Downie. For he had taken the First Nations’ fight for respect and reconciliation to the mainstream and, as always, spoke from the heart when he talked about our country’s problems.
“It will take a 150 years or seven generations to heal the wounds of the residential school, to become a country and truly call ourselves Canada,” he said. “It means we must become one. We must walk down the path of reconciliation from now on. Together and forever. This is the first day of forever, the greatest day of my life, the greatest day of all of our lives, Thank you.”
And one last quote to share about the man who now dances across the sky. He once told the CBC’s Laurie Brown that if he could rip out his heart while on stage and share it with each and every person in the audience, he would do it.
And that’s exactly what he did, every time he hit the stage. Weren’t we lucky.
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