My 18-year-old son wanted to watch Jack Layton’s funeral with me yesterday, so we made an event of it. I set five large candles on the living room coffee table as we watched his coffin moved from Toronto City Hall, where he had served as a municipal councillor, to Roy Thompson Hall, where the government of Canada had offered to honour Mr Layton with a state funeral (perhaps the first time I have thought Prime Minister Harper has done the best thing).
I was torn up from the beginning as I watched Layton’s wife, Olivia Chow, walking alone in her black dress, behind the hearse. What courage and composure she has displayed throughout this entire period of public mourning. I worried about her. Will she stumble? What if she collapses? Why doesn’t someone walk beside her for support? But she must have chosen to do it this way. And it did make a powerful statement about her personal loss.
When the service began I lit the candles. My tears were shed quietly and as unobtrusively as possible, but they were shed. Having never met Jack Layton, I still felt I had a sense of him as a person, and agreed fully when one of his eulogists, the very great Stephen Lewis, said he was a “lovely, lovely man.”
Later I went for a slow walk alone in the beautiful calm twilight, and let a physical sorrow roll through me. Feeling sorrow over the death of a stranger? Well whatever; let it be. During the night I woke up worried about his wife, imagining her loneliness and despair alone in their bed, sending her healing, loving energy.
Perhaps, having lost some very close loved ones, this just brings some of the emotion up again.