I spent last night doing the same thing most of Canada was doing, gluing myself to the television to watch Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip play the biggest show of their lives. As with many of my fellow Canadians, The Hip are a staple of our upbringing in this country. They represent every cottage or camping trip we’ve ever been on, they helped us get through break-ups and for those of us who struggled through our English classes, they introduced us to poetry that we would have otherwise never known. In short, they were ours as Canadians and we loved them.
When the band announced that they would tour one last time, the rush for tickets was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The fact that Gord Downie was going to tour after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer was inspiring but I couldn’t have imagined the overwhelming array of emotions I was about to go through. I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the show in Ottawa and can honestly say that I have never heard a louder crowd in my entire life. You could tell by watching Gord in the moments when he wasn’t singing that he was truly humbled by the response from the fans and we were in turn humbled by his passion for his craft. By the way, if you’d like to donate to Gord Downie’s Fund For Brain Cancer Research, as I have already done, you can do so by visiting the Sunnybrook Foundation Page right here!
During their final show in Kingston last night, I told myself that I would be cool in front of the kids while we watched together. As I answered my son’s question about why the concert and the band were so important to me, I uncharacteristically started to choke up and realized that this was not going to be easy to get through. I can’t really explain the emotions I was feeling but I assumed that most others were having the same reaction. I was definitely sad to be losing a Canadian music legend in Gord Downie, but that wasn’t what was hitting me. I think part of it was seeing him up there doing the thing he was most passionate about and giving it everything he had left, knowing it would likely be the last time. It would have been easy to fold up shop when he got the diagnosis but he instead chose to make sure that every ounce of life went lived.
As I watched the tweets and facebook posts stream by, I was overcome with a strong sense of pride in my Canadian heritage and realized that we were taking part in one of the greatest send-offs of all-time. I was proud that Gord decided to unselfishly use his platform to speak for our indigenous community, who have been overlooked for far too long. I laughed as Gord talked about how hard he worked to finally get women to come to the shows, I cried as he let out all of his pain and anger in a stirring rendition of “Grace, Too”, I went through some deep self reflection and I became more inspired than I’ve been in a long time. All this in a span of 3 hours and all thanks to a band. Who knew?
I’d like to say a special thank you to the CBC for setting aside the Olympics and the commercials and the money you could have otherwise made to air this concert for the people and for a band that brought this country together for a night of love and reflection.
And, of course, Thank You to Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip for the music, the years of hard work, for teaching me about perseverance and the importance of nurturing your passion.