I wrote this last year on the day Jack Layton passed away. When I found out, I was sitting on a subway heading north to Wilson station. The last few stops were above ground. I was playing Spider and the game was interrupted by a text message from my father with the news.
I’ve lived in Toronto-Danforth for four years. Jack meant a lot to us.
I published this and then un-published it again, not sure what to do with it. Today is the anniversary of his passing, and so here it is, unedited.
Federal NDP leader Jack Layton died yesterday morning in his home in Toronto. He was 61.
It’s been almost 36 hours since I found out and I still don’t believe it. RIP Jack Layton doesn’t make sense; Jack Layton dead doesn’t make sense; a man so alive and passionate silenced doesn’t make sense. I’m trying to understand it.
Reading his farewell letter was a thoroughly emotional experience, to say the least, made more difficult by the fresh scent of NDP success — Layton led his party to a historic 103 seats in the last election and became the official Leader of the Opposition. The New Democrats have never been so successful as they were under Layton, and it stings even worse that just as his vision was becoming a reality, his life no longer was.
I regret never meeting him, and wish I had been in town for the huge NDP election party on May 2nd, when the seat numbers just climbed and climbed. There were five party leaders in that election. Two were booted from Parliament, one was voted in, and one will never again return to Stornoway. It was historic for so many reasons. The elation coming out of the NDP party was an incredible sight, however, and watching the numbers climb and climb to dizzying heights was something I won’t soon forget. Jack’s joyful election speech is the way I’d like us, and Canada, to remember him — at the height of his successes, passionate and optimistic about the future of the country, and ready to take everything on. Everything; the Conservatives, leading the Opposition, or cancer.
His swift departure from our lives and the reaction it has spawned brings home the highly positive image that everyone had of this remarkable man, even after his worrying press conference in July when he announced his leave of absence. No one expected him not to be back in September; even though we should have expected the worst, it never crossed our minds. Jack never loses a fight, we thought. Maybe compromises, but doesn’t lose.
This was his last fight, and he fought well.
Goodbye, Jack; thanks for everything.
Torontoist has a beautiful piece about him.