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Saying goodbye

Flag at half-mastI went to Parliament Hill yesterday, to pay my last respects to Jack Layton. It was a very long, very slow line which stretched pretty much around the whole East Block. I’m glad I went, though I didn’t stay.

There was a man near me in the line who said it would be 10 p.m. before we got in. He said they’d shut it down right before our turn. He said it was going to be a very long boring day. He said he didn’t expect the rain to hold off much longer.

I smiled. “Love, hope and optimism,” I said cheerfully.

Jack's shrineAnyway, he ended up staying and I ended up leaving. Ever since my back problems, I’ve been unable to stand for very long. I can walk or sit all day, but I can only stand for about 45 minutes before it starts hurting. The security guys were saying it would be a two or three hour wait. I had to get home to feed the pets, and I had other things I wanted to do too. So I left.

Can you tell I’m feeling a bit guilty about this? It reminds me of the time the Dalai Lama came to Ottawa in 1990 to unveil the Human Rights Monument. It was unseasonably cold, wet and windy, and the Dalai Lama was late. When he finally arrived he made a speech which seemed unnecessarily long to me. Instead of listening, I spent the whole time whining to my friends and my son about his lateness and the weather. I still remember my friend Kathryn turning to me and saying gently “Zoom, it’s the Dalai Lama.”

In my defense, I will say that the weather totally sucked that day. (See? Twenty-one years later and I’m still whining about it.)

A chld's noteAt least I didn’t whine on Parliament Hill yesterday. Before I left, I took some pictures. Spontaneous shrines and makeshift memorials tend to choke me up, and this one was no exception. It was lovely and touching and evocative. Lots of handwritten tributes and orange offerings. One thing was clear from looking at the makeshift memorial and the long lineup of mourners: Jack’s death hit home emotionally for many of us.

An orangeIn case you haven’t already seen it, check out the National Post’s Photo Gallery of Jack. I liked it very much. It covers the good times and the bad, and there were a lot more good times.

In the After Stonewall windowParliament Hill wasn’t the only place in Ottawa where Jack was being honoured.

I saw chalk messages on sidewalks and walls downtown. This is the window at After Stonewall.

And of course there’s this funny retrospective video by This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

Goodbye, Jack. May you continue to inspire Canadians for many years to come.

Riding off into the sunset

8 comments to Saying goodbye

  • I didn’t even know Jack Layton existed but have read so many pieces this week about the man he was and I’m saddened that such an individual is gone. I think it says something good about a public figure that made people feel like they knew him. They are so few and far between.

    Goodbye Jack. I wish I had known you.

  • reb

    I was at the vigil on Monday and sort of feel that was a more fitting goodbye.

    I did pass Jack’s hearse on Vanier parkway when I was on the way to my morning meeting in the west end and I considered going to Parliament hill after but figured the long lines and crowds would just be a source of frustration and that I could say prayers from home while doing work that I think Jack would approve of.

  • Mike

    Does anyone know the exact route of Jack Layton’s motorcade from Ottawa to Toronto? What wil be the exact route in Toronto? It would be nice if people could express their thanks by standing on the bridges and wave flags.

    • sassy


      Here is some of the route

      “After leaving Parliament Hill, the hearse carrying Layton’s casket will make a short and symbolic journey across the Ottawa River to Gatineau, Que.

      The procession will travel down Laurier Street in front of the Canadian Museum of Civilization and Gatineau’s city hall to salute Quebecers’ support and affection for Layton, particularly in last spring’s federal election. Layton was born in Hudson, Que., and his father represented a Quebec riding in the House of Commons.”

  • deb

    I just heard on the news that there were 14,000 people that paid their respects…that didn’t seem like a whole lot to me.

  • 14 000paid their respects, 70 000 came to the hill.

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