We were camping when someone checked the news on their phone and announced that Jack Layton had passed away. I had been napping and wasn't sure at first if I had dreamt it, or if it was real. Once I overcame my disbelief, my feeling was reminiscent of when Princess Diana had died; that it wasn't possible that such a well-liked public persona could be gone so unexpectedly (although there are those who would argue that his end was written on his face when he stepped down earlier this summer), and too soon. I have to admit that I've been weepy for days and had to quit reading the posts, tributes and links from Twitter and online news sources because it was making me so sad.
I came late to the Jack Layton fan club. I was raised in a very conservative family and it wasn't until I got older and had a family of my own that I realized that my values didn't coincide with the Conservative/Alliance/Reform party line. After exploring my options I decided that the NDP were probably the best fit, but really, I don't know if I would have even considered them if it wasn't for Jack Layton. I loved that he was so optimistic about Canada's future and what Canadians could accomplish if we had the will to do it. He gave us hope. I liked that he always had a smile on his face, instead of doom and gloom hovering over him like a cloud, like so many politicians. Yes, I think we all know that the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket, but do politicians have to rub it in our faces all the time? He had more charisma than the rest of the party leaders combined. He's been called "The Happy Warrior", and I think it is a very apt description.
In his lovely tribute, journalist Edward Keenan points out that Jack never asked any of us to do anything that he wasn't already doing. He had high expectations for his fellow politicians and for the citizens of Canada, and his enthusiasm was a powerful motivator.
I think I liked him even more after seeing this segment from the Rick Mercer show where I discovered that his mother-in-law lived with him and his wife, MP Olivia Chow. I think it takes a certain kind of man to open his home to his MIL, a man with good character.
So later on tonight, after the kids are in bed, I'll sit down in front of the TV and PVR with a box of kleenex to watch Mr. Layton's final farewell. I know that I'm in the minority out here in one of the strongest Conservative ridings in Canada, but there are still many of us that will miss him, and what he represented.