Gord’s Goodbye – A “Where Were You When” Moment

Sometimes in life an event takes place that’s so big you remember exactly where you were when it happened. For some it was the last episode of MASH, Cheers, or Seinfeld. For many Canadians it was Joe Carter’s home run, or Sidney Crosby’s golden goal. Baby boomers know where they were when Kennedy was shot, when man landed on the moon, and of course, If there’s a goal that everyone remembers, it was back in ole ’72. And now many of us in Canada will know exactly where we were for Gord’s Goodbye and The Tragically Hip’s final show.

This past Saturday, August 20th, 2016, our entire country collectively waited in anticipation for a moment to remember for a lifetime – many lifetimes. Sure, some people went about their business, and not all 30 million+ Canadians took part. But the ones who did were treated to a show for the ages, and memories to last just as long – and it was Well worth the wait.

For those who don’t know, the lead singer of Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, Gord Downie, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, going public with the news only a few months ago.

So what does a Canadian do when he faces death? He smiles, dresses like there’s no tomorrow, and then he goes out and gives-er, Armed with will and determination!

The band kicked off one final cross-Canada tour, starting in Victoria, BC, and like another heroic Canadian, ended in Ontario. It’s somewhat symbolic that Terry Fox only made it halfway across Canada on his marathon of hope. Similarly, Gord Downie and The Hip’s tour ended in Ontario, with the final show held in Kingston – the band’s home town. Both Terry and Gord are symbols of courage, and perseverance. And both demonstrated not how to face death, but how to live life, with honor, pride, and Grace, too.

Younger generations may have just brushed off this event as some ‘old people thing’, unable to comprehend or understand the significance of the event. A generation so much dumber than it’s parents. But that’s fine by me. If it’s an event to define my generation and possibly a few others’, hey, we’ll take it and Keep it tucked up under our Fifty Mission Caps!

The Hip were never extremely popular outside of Canada, and we’re okay with that. They have songs about Canada, and they remind we Canadians of our history; moreover, what it is to be Canadian. To be proud of where you’re from. To understand and learn from our history – both the good and the bad. After all, This is our life!

There has been a lot of hate in the world lately. You see it in your Facebook feed all the time. On the news. In the papers. But for one night in Canada, everybody set aside their differences and acted as Canadians do. We celebrated the life of one of our own. There was no hate, only love.

We often talk about doing more stuff with less stuff here. We preach it sometimes. And this is another one of those examples. My wife and I weren’t Looking for a place to happen, instead we spent the evening with friends, two being die-hard Hip fans – and we couldn’t have asked for a better memory. No expenses were spared in the meal preparations, the beverages of choice, the live streaming of the late-breaking story on the CBC, or in this case, one of the best concerts ever televised. It’s not often you’ll get me to sit in front of the TV for very long, but this was a rare occasion where TV had my (and many others) undivided attention.

And kudos to our national broadcaster, CBC, providing three hours of commercial free viewing pleasure. This could have been a Pay-Per-View event that would have brought in millions. Nope, that’s not Canada. I’m 100% okay with my tax dollars being spent on this event, and you should be too. The footage was outstanding, as were the lighting, sound, and camera angles. The CBC dropped their Olympic coverage, had no sponsors or ads for the entire concert, and no banners scrolling across the screen.

Stats show the CBC had 11 million+ viewers. That’s one third of Canada; however, it doesn’t take into consideration the parties where multiple people were watching. Very few people likely sat around watching it on their own. It was a night to hang out with your friends, with fellow fans, with your neighbours, and most important; with your children to have them witness history.

If there’s a show that everyone remembers
It was back in ole 2016
We all tuned in and we all shed a tear
As Gord and the boys sang on our TV screen…

Three hours and a triple encore later, the band played it’s final song to their hometown crowd, and one of my personal favourites – Ahead by a Century.

This show truly humbled me. From Gord Downie’s brief political interjections, to the thoughts of ‘this man is going to die soon’. Prime Minister Trudeau was in the crowd, too, donning a Hip t-shirt, and Gord said to the audience we were in good hands with him as our PM. Now, it Could have been the Willie Nelson, could have been the wine, but I like to think Gord is right.

I’m a better person for having traveled. For having seen how others live – often with much less. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t exactly miss Canada when I was gone – especially in the winter. But having traveled across this great nation of ours, seeing it’s beauty, talking with the people living in different parts our home and native land, and last but not least – enjoying moments together like Saturday’s, I remember what it is to be Canadian. Take care of the land, take care of the people. We need to look after one another in this world.

Life isn’t to be spent buying stuff. Life is meant to enjoy and celebrate moments. We celebrated the life of Gord Downie on Saturday, soaking in the moment, as did many of my fellow beautiful Canadians.  And now whenever we hear a song by The Hip, we’ll all think of Gord’s Goodbye and…that night in Toronto Kingston.


5 thoughts on “Gord’s Goodbye – A “Where Were You When” Moment”

  1. Great write up of an amazing moment in Canadian history. As someone who grew up on the Hip in small town Ontario, it was the perfect send off for an iconic Canadian band. Gord. It was a pleasure doing business with you.

  2. What a fantastic article Al! You captured it! August 20th, 2016 was a memory for a lifetime. Cheers!

  3. I have never been to Canada and never heard of him, but he sounds like a legend! Looked The Tragically Hip up on YouTube currently listening to them. They are good! 😀

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