Of all the beautiful and poetic lyrics he wrote over the years, there are none that describe Gord Downie better than this one.
Armed with will and determination, and grace, too
His will and determination while faced with a terminal illness was incredible, and nothing short of inspiring. And, the grace he showed throughout his life, while being in the public eye, speaks volumes about his character.
To be fair, I am not a die hard Tragically Hip fan. I grew up with them, and like most Canadians, I enjoy their music. There are several songs I can sing along with, because they are always on the radio.
The first time I saw the Hip live was at the Walkerton Watershed Concert in 2002. I was excited, and couldn’t wait to see them. Unfortunately, while the setlist was amazing, they didn’t live up to their reputation and I left very disappointed. So much so, that seeing them again was not something that really interested me.
Last Spring, when it was announced that Gord Downie was fighting terminal brain cancer, I really thought I had missed my chance to see them again. Thankfully, I was wrong. Rob (perhaps the BIGGEST Hip fan I know) scored 2 tickets to their final show in Toronto on Sunday August 14, 2016. And, he invited me to join him.
It was the most emotional concert I have ever attended. It was raw and completely humbling. Watching Gord Downie perform with such courage and conviction is something that will be with me forever. My entire concert experience was made when they played Boots or Hearts – my favorite Tragically Hip song. I think I was close to tears singing along with Gord’s powerful voice.
It was just the fourth song into their set, and I would have been happy if it ended there. Thankfully it did not, and I heard some other favorites too. Ahead By A Century, Little Bones, Bobcageon and of course Grace, Too – to which I can still hear Gord’s powerful and strained cries out.
Today, with the news of his passing, Justin Trudeau said it best with “We all knew it was coming. But we hoped it wasn’t.” It sums up how every Canadian, and every Hip fan – great or small – feels right now. We all truly hoped we would see him in concert again one day.
“We’ll see you down the road somewheres.”