We at NOW magazine are devastated by the passing, early Monday morning, of the Official leader of the Opposition, the head of the federal New Democratic Party, a great Canadian, a great person and a great friend, Jack Layton.
While we were well aware of Jack's ongoing health issues, the thought of such a powerful and energetic man silenced is nothing short of heart breaking.
I was personally convinced - and not shy about saying it - that after four terrible years of Conservative majority rule, Jack would be the next Prime Minister of Canada. Sadly, this dream will not be realized although, who knows what greatness can be achieved by the hard work Jack did in leading his party to before, unimaginable heights.
We at NOW have found ourselves supporting Jack's incredible work in many areas over the decades as an unelected community organizer, to candidate and from time to time elected official.
Despite his strongly held views, Jack managed to campaign with grace and intelligence, never descending into the name calling and abusive tactics so many other politicians regularly employ.
Much is said of Jack's amazing energy and commitment and one story readily comes to my mind. About 11 years ago, I was grumpily pushing a stroller with my newborn son through a snowstorm in Riverdale. My latest bundle of joy wouldn't stop crying and sure wasn't going to sleep so I bundled him up in his stroller determined to use my surefire sleep inducer, the nighttime walk even if the blowing storm made this seem an insane idea.
As I made my snow-lashed way through my neighbourhood, cursing my fate a figure came riding by on a bike.
"Michael", it called out, "How ya doing?"
It was Jack, bundled up but still riding his bike, just one of the issues he not only advocated for but, walked the walk, or in the case, rode it.
He had a toque over his bike helmet and snow clung to his moustache but Jack's smile and positive energy made my self-pity disappear. He beamed at my young son, shared some kind words and made me feel lucky to be a new parent yet again.
Eleven years later, that son Reed Hollett and I were lucky enough to join Jack and his family on election night in their suite as they watched the stunning results. As we entered the room, he was on the couch playing with his grand daughter, arm around his wife Olivia Chow and watching the news.
When he spotted the two of us, Jack was on his feet, rushed over and quickly gave me a heartfelt hug. He gave my son a two-handed hand shake and greeted him by name.
"Michael, it's appropriate you would be here tonight with our family as we watch these results."
My son beamed and I did feel blessed to be so intimately part of this historic moment, a true culmination of decades of amazing work by Jack.
And I, like so many others, feel blessed to have been part of Jack's larger "family."
Good bye dear friend you will be so greatly missed but never forgotten. Your work and words will illuminate some of the dark days ahead, days all the dimmer without your shining vision to brighten them.