"All my very best." That was his sign-off, and that's what Jack Layton gave to the very end. With the last of his life force, he shone a light over this whole country in that sweet, wise letter. And in doing so, he whipped off another miracle.
Jack couldn't overcome the toll taken on his body by the punishing grandeur of his achievement in this last year of his life. But he has upped the ante in a way none of us could have imagined.
True even beyond form, Jack has left us his spirit, still hard at work. Though we are laying his body to rest this weekend, Jack speaks to us now more powerfully and compellingly than ever.
Who knows how much Jack's over-the-top election commitment stole from his days on this planet? But his unquenchable zest for love, his unstoppable faith in hope and that crazy, unwavering optimism of his are building an even bigger, better movement from the other side of the veil.
Because of the generous way Jack chose to live, and especially because of the incredible dignity, skill and grace with which he walked to his death, his legacy adds a new and beautiful lustre to the social democratic vision he gave expression to throughout his long career. Because he struggled with such stirring integrity and passion, his treasured values and call to action will now resonate all the way to the future generations he held so deeply in his heart.
How subversive and brilliant is that?
From where we stand right now, at the portal of his passing, there are layers and levels to the magic of Jack's legendary story that will serve us in a manner we can only begin to see.
One of the subtle streams I hear whispering underneath this epic moment has to do with the existence of spirit itself. I speak of no religiosity here. But the fact is that whatever you call it, the biggest part of each of us hungers for things that money can't buy.
This huge inner part of us cannot and does not stand alone. To feed our hungry souls, we have only the "collective wealth" Jack speaks about.
The under-appreciated but magnificent power of social democracy that won Quebec to Jack's side is the way it speaks to the common richness that needs to be fostered in both inner and outer worlds.
Jack's call to action puts the missing spirit piece into Canada's political puzzle. Intangible qualities like love, hope and optimism now can claim their space.
We all have the need to plug ourselves in. Jack was an avid partaker in both the web of human culture and the experience of nature. His appetites for fascinating dinners with interesting people and for canoeing mighty rivers are twin legends. And I can't help but think his genius for connection arose from both.
Though I was one of his progressive critics, he never missed an opportunity to greet me as an ally and have a deep exchange. Jack's sense of coalition is part of his most glorious legacy.
The truth is that there is a mysterious part in all of us that can only be made whole by engaging, one way or another, in building the "more inclusive and generous Canada" that Jack now helps us to remember in our dreams.
Jack's legacy is the antidote we've been searching for in these narrow-minded times. It is time to embrace the values that he has shown can bring our lives to fullness even as we stand at the door of death.
When humans are understood only as consumers, and fear and greed build prisons of segregation and degradation, the human spirit is crushed and wasted. Jack's heroic warrior's life and death inspire us to speak aloud about the ethereal realities that have the power to enhance and transform our lives and our country.
This article was first published in NOW Magazine.
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