The news of Jack Layton's passing hit me harder than I expected. The weather which, a day ago, had been in full blue-skyed summer mode, took a turn for the dreary and stormy - an appropriate foil for the somber news stories that detailed Jack's swift fall to cancer.
Even though I never really sided with Jack's politics, I couldn't help but admire his passion, tenacity and enduring spirit. When his "Orange Crush" - his tidal wave of supporters carried him to an unprecedented victory in the last election, his elation was contagious.
When he last appeared in public, looking like a shadow of his former self - gaunt and strikingly skeletal, everyone knew that cancer, once again, was taking its toll. It seemed unfair - to beat one cancer only to fall victim to another. But still, he fought. He promised only a brief hiatus before returning to the political forum, but the pain behind his brave words was evident.
He knew that his time on this earth was limited, but still he remained unswervingly dedicated to his people - to his Canada. Even when cancer's shadow loomed large, he put the fear and pain and anger aside and wrote this beautiful and haunting letter.
I read that letter yesterday, curled up on the couch, and I could not stop the tears. The last few lines, now oft-quoted, truly resonated within me:
"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."
Those are words to live by. Written by a man who knew that his time was running short. The words are simple, but the idea behind them is monumental.
In a time when sorrow and hatred and anger dominate the landscape, these words are a touchstone, a reminder and a call to arms. Those words speak volumes and I hope that we're all ready to listen.