A week ago, I was glued to my TV. Jack Layton’s state funeral captured me like it did much of Canada. For me, I lost a friend, a mentor, and a hero.
I learned the news when I woke on Monday morning. My new husband yelled upstairs in shock. I couldn’t believe my ears. I raced down the stairs, flipped open my laptop and Googled “Jack Layton.” Just a few hours earlier, at age 61, Jack Layton, leader of Canada’s NDP, passed away from cancer.
When Jack’s family released his final words to Canadians, “Let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world,” tears flowed.
You see, Jack always lived to make the world a better place. In doing so he inspired many. In his dying moments, he wrote a letter to motivate all of us to continue on that journey.
Having been able to say that I knew Jack personally is an honour. We first met when I was a Young New Democrat and he was running for leader of the NDP. His smile and honest approach to politics plus his energetic work ethic confirmed me as a Jack campaigner. It was on this campaign trail that Jack took the time to strategize with me about my bid for Nelson city council. His advice on how to run and win with integrity has always stayed close to my heart, and it hasn’t failed me yet.
As the outpouring of emotion for Jack continues from coast to coast to coast, we are reminded of what a great man he was. As a leader, he united Canada in a way that hasn’t been done for a long time. With the last election, the separatist movement fizzled in Quebec and speakers of both official languages worked together for a better Canada. That was Jack inspiring a new generation of Quebeckers, of Canadians.
There is no doubt that Jack was savvy and political to his core. He was trustworthy too, and committed to his principles of social justice, fairness and peace. His last words to all of us demonstrate that he always had time for us.
As I grieve the loss of someone who encouraged me, I know I am not alone. Many people have stopped by my office to write their condolences to his family. After his funeral, a crowd of supporters gathered at Lakeside Park to celebrate Jack’s life. Just like at his funeral in Toronto, we cried, we laughed, we sang and we talked about changing the world.
The last time I saw Jack, it was just two months ago. We had a brief moment for a hug and a smile at the federal convention. He said to me “I am so proud of you.” Jack, right back at ‘cha. Thank you for everything!
Footnote: Thank you so much to all the well-wishes for Zak and I on our recent marriage. We are overwhelmed with the amount of love our region has shared with us. It has truly enriched us and will stay with us in our life together.
Michelle Mungall is the Nelson-Creston MLA. Her column is featured once a month in the Star.