I'm forever tied to Gord Downie.
His band has been a part of my adult life ever since I played pond hockey against some of them in 1985 in Kingston Ontario. I've listened to their music, mostly in the background for the majority of that time. They had never made it to the front of my mixed tape list. Not because I didn't like their music, but because I was was spending more time listening to the likes of Neil Young, the Clash, Uriah Heap, Pink Floyd and others.
It's amazing how quickly that can change. When I heard they were on a last tour and that Gord Downie had cancer it all of a sudden became a much different story. I started listening more intently.
All of a sudden I paid attention. And all of a sudden I realized that I knew every one of their songs. I had strong feelings and associated many special moments with their songs. Obviously they were a part of my mix tape of life and I didn't even know it.
Two summers ago I started a journey walking alongside Gord. His final concert changed something in me. I talk about watching that final concert and it's impact in this post Fully Completely - a profound series of events.
Ever since that night I stop and listen to every element of a Tragically Hip song when it comes on the radio, or in a bar, a car or at work. It is as though Gord is reminding me to be in the moment and to pay attention with real intent.
That night he reminded me of the courage I had within myself to continue to keep the demons at bay. I was at the lowest point in my life that night and with the help of my wife Tracey and the Tragically Hip I am a better man and have a more courageous approach to this journey.
Watching him performing while dealing with his brain tumour was so powerful. That moment where he was screaming during Grace, Too was the moment I identified with most. In my interpretation that was the scream of frustration at the inability to continue doing what he loved most. It was of course wrapped in acceptance and joy, but at it's core it was a primal scream of frustration.
And what is most interesting about the story, is the untold story of his band. They have been such stalwarts throughout the whole process. They are a true and solid group of humans and should be commended for their love, compassion and support.
We're never alone. We're never beaten till we decide we're beaten. We can still do what we want when we want. And the most important thing we can do is to be ourselves. Our best selves. It's all up to us.
Thank you for the reminder Gord. Thank you to the rest of the band for all you did as a true and loving team. You are the true unsung heroes of this story.
RIP Mr. Downie.