This is how Canadians face down death, with shiny pants and dancing. #TheHip
— Stacy King (@stacyking) August 21, 2016
On Saturday night, we stayed up for the Hip.
Back in May, the Spouse wrote a piece about Gord Downie’s poetry and cancer diagnosis. He ended it with these lines: “I wish I could be there.” And on Saturday we were. It felt like we all were. The CBC did what the nation’s broadcaster is supposed to do and gathered us as a nation all in one place, even if we happened to be on the other side of the world.
For us, the live webcast started at 1:30am and there was no way we were going to miss it. Supplies were purchased – extra rations of snacks and drinks to keep us going. There might have been naps. When the time came, we brought the computer into the kitchen to be further away from the sleeping kids. Then we lit the room with candles and settled in for the show.
I am not going to write a play-by-play on the concert – for that, you can read Sean Michaels’ excellent article in the Globe and Mail – but I want to share some of what I loved. I loved Fiddler’s Green. I loved My Music at Work. I always love Poets. I loved the force of the new songs – particularly In a World Possessed by the Human Mind. The layers in the word possessed were just uncanny. And I loved Gord’s strong call for respect and rights for the First Nations. He used his voice to speak the truth and to call for continued change. It was all so very powerful.
If you aren’t a Tragically Hip fan, all I can say is that Gord Downie is a poet and a prophet. He teaches Canada our history and the complicated landscape of our hearts. His words push hard and then show us our own shared frailty. And he knows how to rock, even in the face of finality and decline.
About four in the morning, our little Plum woke up and came downstairs to join us. The Spouse thought he might manage to settle him again, but I thought that sounded like a struggle and didn’t want either of us to miss a single song, so we kept him with us. He was a trooper and told me, in the quietest of voices, that he loved the guitars.
On Saturday night, Canada watched Gord Downie. We’ve loved him for his mighty songs, his quirky presence and the way he sings like no one else. But on Saturday, he was doing something else, too. He was showing us courage. He’s sung it enough times and made us think it through in strange, new ways, but in the final concert, he embodied it. He stood courageous for us, and looked right into the end of all our known days. For him, it’s close. His cancer is a present reality and he’s been public about the prognosis. But we’re all the same. None of us can skip the grief of letting go. It’s always going to end too soon. Gord showed us how to face that truth. With his crazy, wise poetry, shiny pants and dancing, he showed us how to live this mad and beautiful life as a gift given for others.
I am so very glad to have been there.
Photo by Aven Hoffarth
The Tragically Hip – Rexall Place – Edmonton Alberta – Feb 12, 2015