In July, a prominent Canadian politician held a press conference to let Canadians know that he was stepping back from politics in order to devote his energies to fighting a second bout of cancer, but that he would likely be back in the fall. My dearest friend, a palliative care nurse, told me about it when we saw her during our vacation -- we hadn't been following the news at all -- and she said he had a look about him that made her wonder whether he would make it. Serious statement, coming from a palliative care nurse. Yesterday, I woke up just before my radio station aired the news that he had died. Given Cathy's assessment a month ago, I shouldn't have been surprised, but we all are. He seemed invincible, somehow.
The fact that many people, even my daughters, referred to him by just his first name says a lot about the man. He was a perpetually optimistic go-getter, always rallying people around him toward higher ideals and better behaviour toward one another, and especially toward the poor and marginalized. He was a strong advocate for the homeless, which made him a good man in my eyes. In the past twenty-four hours, the airwaves have been full of stories about him and people's response to his passing. Even those who didn't like his political leanings held him in rather high esteem -- the comment forums on our news sites bear witness to the respect he engendered.
What has touched us most, perhaps, is the letter he left to the Canadian public, the full text of which can be read here. After offering his trademark encouragement to his political party colleagues, to other Canadians fighting cancer, to young people, and, well, to all of us, he closed his letter with these words:
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.In a world that is full of too much noise and too many useless words, it's good to remind ourselves that usually, the best words are the simplest ones. At the end of his life, Jack Layton proved it. Well done, good and faithful servant.
P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.