The Ghosts Who Sing
The beginning notes of “Grace Too” echo throughout my living room as the voice belonging to Gord Downie croons “Gee, I don’t know…” as the song leaps into its first crescendo. I have had the flu for the past day and a half but even then I feel like I am a copy, of a copy, of a copy, going through the motions. This loss seems sudden even though we have all know for over a year it was coming, could come, at any time.
Gord Downie was always a bit of a mystic to me, the poet/philosopher captivated every room he was in and the times I was blessed to see him on stage it did not matter the size of the audience because for a time — we were all lost in his words, his view of the world, his warm soul.
So last year when he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer it was of no surprise to me (or anyone really) that the final thing he wanted to do was travel the country he loved so much, doing one last tour before his final bow. Gord loved Canada in a way that was rare, he genuinely wanted to make his country better on a level that seems mythological, like Paul Bunyan or Johnny Appleseed would to those of us south of the Canadian border.
My favorite Hip story is one I tell often, I had been introduced to the band through my time at the radio station WTHS at Hope College but had not had the pleasure of seeing the band. In April of 1995 the band would be touring on Day For Night and that would be my introduction to this spectacular band.
At the Orbit Room for $12, I was going to have my mind blown. With about 1:50 left before showtime, or as I would come to understand it as the exact time it takes to sing the Canadian National Anthem, the largest flag I have ever seen in my life took over the floor of the Orbit Room and the crowd sang every note of that anthem and when they hit the last note — the band took the stage and that was all she wrote for me, I was hooked.
It seems harder to lose people when you know it is coming, your brain tells you that you would have time to prepare and that should brace you better than if it comes out of left field — but it doesn’t. If anything I think it gives you a sense of hope that at the last minute something might change. But nothing changed and now everything changed.
There are writers better suited to pay homage to Gord Downie and you can read a brilliant one here. I will leave you with one of the best lines from this piece as it is yet another anthem pulling you towards a better you, as even from the beyond Gord is telling you to get to work.
“Do the work. Create the spark. Then sit back and see what happens, because it’s not like you can control it. Sit down. Shut up until it’s time to do it again. See where those sparks land.”