This tragic story has been unfolding on a national scale since news came out and the Hip have miraculously managed to complete their final and most explosive cross country tour, in spite of his illness. Or rather perhaps because of it.
Gord is teaching us a lot about what it means to rise above your life's circumstances and to own life's curve balls rather then to succumb to them. Even if those very curve balls inevitably terminate your time on this earth.
It's no secret that we live in a death-phobic culture. We are bombarded with messages of eternal youth, beauty, and the anti-aging machine that has fueled the advertising world, and feeds our inner most fears and insecurities.
What is is about death that terrifies us so much? The great unknown, the fear of pain, the sadness of leaving those we love, the total and utter lack of control we have over it all.... ??
The beauty and the sorrow in what Gord Downie and the Hip are teaching us is that its OK to face our death, our pain, even our magnitude and our power. Gord has not shied away from his diagnosis of terminal cancer, in fact some would say he has embraced it.
There's no denial here. He is fully aware that this is his last chance to shine and to give his fans the exit both he and they deserve. His bravery and courage don't mean he is invulnerable to the pain either.
In watching their last show in Kingston I was glued to the screen during one of the bands encores when he sang the song “Grace too” and the cameras zoomed into his face where he was letting us in (without words) to the shear magnitude of his pain, sorrow, anger, fear, and ultimate vulnerability. He was exposed and it was beautiful.
Without using his words, he was able to convey a message in that moment. A message of human frailty, the pain that connect us all, and in that the beauty of our shared experiences. We are not alone, he is not alone. Death is not the enemy. Its OK, its all OK.
Gord, in his own way, is allowing us to breathe and to cry and to mourn and to celebrate and to feel pure joy and live in the moment with him, to feel grateful for all of it. After all, there is no dress rehearsal, this is our life. So how do you want to live it?