Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Gospel According to Gord

Last night,  along with the rest of Canada, I experienced The Tragically Hip play their last show.  Even though I was one of the lucky ones to get tickets to see them play live in Winnipeg a few weeks ago, I knew I had to be a part of the last show as part of the wider community of people who loved them.

Mike and I brought our girls with us to watch the show.  It wasn't a tough sell.  The girls have grown up listening to The Hip.  No road trip for our family was ever complete without The Tragically Hip joining us on our soundtrack.  But for me, it wasn't just about the music.  It was about them experiencing a piece of Canadian history that will always be remembered, and having them deposit their own memories into their vaults of "Where were you when The Hip played their last show?"  It was about them being swallowed up into a crowd of people who knew this was more than a show.  It was about them touching the emotional experience you get when you say goodbye to someone you love, and being part of something so much bigger than yourself.  And so, there they sat with us

It was an unforgettable night, that's true.  Though obviously weary and worn, Gord brought it all to the stage in Kingston last night and offered it up to the people.  I've always been intrigued by fans of the band.  Going to their live shows, you'll see a little bit of  everything and everyone.  Maybe that's a part of what's made them so Canadian.  Last night at the Lyric, the crowd was no different.  A cross-section of Canada where you have a place.  Trades people and academics, high school drop-outs and historians, and everyone in between.  There was a Hip song that everyone could relate to; everyone could claim as their own.

There were moments for me, last night, when time stood still for a moment.  One image I'll never forget is Gord kissing his friends and band-mates on the mouth with tender affection.  This is how he started the show backstage, and how he ended the show on stage.  These are more than his friends, they have been his journey mates and spiritual pilgrims through 30 years of life and music.  But in an age where men are still working their way out of social norms that have painted them into too-small boxes of expectations, to see Gord hold his friend's faces in his hands and kiss them said, "Don't be afraid.   Live what you feel.  Make sure people know.  Love deeply, openly, and exuberantly.  Do what needs to be done.  To hell with what people think."

The most heartbreaking and compelling song for me was Grace, Too.  Gord taught us all something about living, grieving, and dying all in a 4 minute song.  Near the end, supported by his friends as they played, Gord screamed again and again, without restraint.  The tears poured down his cheeks.  He lived in that moment.  What he must have been feeling could only be communicated with  screams that came from his depths.  He didn't control it, didn't save it for later, didn't cover his face with his hands, or choose to withdraw from the pit of his pain.  His tears flowed unabashedly for the entire country to see. What a message he lived, our rock-star, crying and feeling openly with no shame.  I will never forget it.

In all the interviews and commentary I've seen of Gord, one thing that is always paramount is his humility.  Last night this was so present, but it went even deeper than that.  There he stood, with the mic in his hand, saying what he wanted to convey to the entire country.  He could have talked about his career, his life, his memories, his disease, his fame.  Instead, he talked about "the least of these"- the Indigenous people of Canada who have had everything taken away, yet continue to remind us of their resilience and their fortitude.  When Gord talked about Canadians being trained our whole lives to forget and dismiss the Indigenous community I got goosebumps.   How many spend their last season on earth using their time to remember and respond to someone or something else?  This left an indelible mark on me.

Thank you Gord.  It's been a pleasure doing business with you.

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