Last night was a remarkable evening in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The Tragically Hip – a home-town band that gained national popularity and became a Canadian treasure had a nationally televised concert will likely be their last. Lead singer, Gord Downie, diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour, led the band on a sort of “last stand” tour across Canada that culminated in the final concert in Kingston on August 20.
The arena was full and the downtown core in Kingston was packed – really packed – with people from far and wide who watched and sang and danced to the concert streamed live on a large screen in Market Square. Similar gatherings were held across the country. This was a big deal for Canadians.
Three things stood out for me about this event.
Firstly, this had the potential to be a huge security risk. Over 25,000 people jammed into a market square and flowing into the neighbouring streets and the Prime Minister glad-handing people in the street would not only be a terrorist’s dream in some places but the potential for a few drunk yahoo’s to disrupt it was almost unavoidable. But it didn’t happen. The crowd was orderly and … Canadian. Yes there was the occasional, or not so occasional, waft of marijuana. But that only led to more singing and dancing and air-guitaring. There was security around but not that evident. No guns on display. People checking bags at the entry points to the venue were wearing t-shirts, not uniforms. Everyone was polite. The energy was all celebratory.
Secondly, our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, an acknowledged Hip fan was there to celebrate with us. He walked through the mob in Market Square just before the concert and shook hands and took selfies and smiled in his jean jacket and Tragic
ally Hip T-shirt. His visage only appeared once on the TV screen during the concert when Downie acknowledged him. And the grip Trudeau has on Downie’s shoulder in the photo of them hugging before the concert was real.
Last, but not least, was the courage and determination and resolution that Gord Downie showed in not wallowing in his sorrow and illness but living life to the fullest despite a dismal prognosis. I was tired from standing the three hours for the concert in the square., How exhausted must he have been after dancing and singing his way through the concert, the last of several this month, despite his recent surgery, radiation and chemo treatments for his cancer. This, to me, was really something incredible and an example to all of us not to give in to our troubles, but to live every moment fiercely. We are all dying at some point.
“The trouble is, you think you have time.” Buddha