I know at least a handful of you who read here are Canadian, so what I'm about to say won't be news to you, but for the rest of you who might not know, just about a week ago, one of the most iconic Canadian bands announced that their lead singer has terminal brain cancer and that they will be doing one last, short tour, a month long, in July, to say goodbye.
This was so hard to wake up to, and I haven't been able to stop the tears since I first heard.
The Tragically Hip are not a band for everyone, I don't know that there really is music that is, to be honest, but most of us know the Hip, and for many of us they are the most Canadian of bands. I've always said that I didn't care that the Hip never made it big elsewhere, that they were our band and that's all that mattered. In some ways, they felt like our best kept secret. Canada's band.
The Hip formed in the 80s, so for so many of us, they've always been around. I remember one album that came out when I was in high school and the whole mood of a party would change when someone put it on. The Hip's songs talk about Canada... Canadian stories, Canadian images, Canadian... history. You may not like the Hip, but you can probably sing along to at least a couple of their songs.
I have seen them in concert every time I was able. To be honest, I don't even know how many times that is. I sit here right now telling you that it is not enough. I have not seen them enough to be ready to know I won't see them play together anymore.
The Hip were in town here not all that long ago, and it was an anniversary tour for one of their best known albums and they played the album from start to finish and I only wish I could describe what it's like to be in a concert full of people singing along to songs we all know inside out and that have personal meaning to us all.
Sure, I have some albums I like better than others, but I still own them all, and have pre-ordered their latest... and now last. I love these guys. I love them. For better or for worse, I am a Tragically Hip fan, and they have been part of my growing up, as trite as that may sound to say.
And then there's Gord.
Gord Downie is the lead singer, and Gord Downie is a performance beast. I said to someone at some point that Gord Downie is my performance spirit animal. He just gives it. He is there, fully (and yes, I will say fully, completely just for the Hip fans out there) and doesn't seem to give a flying fuck what he looks like, he just wants to deliver.
Gord performs how I want to live.
And now Gord Downie is dying.
I know, I know, we all are. We are all dying, and we have already lost some wonderful, talented musicians already this year, all this I know. But something about this one is hitting me harder.
Maybe it's harder to know than for it to be a surprise.
Maybe it's harder because I have a personal connection to Mr Downie, that I didn't with Prince, or David Bowie, or the like. Gord Downie sang through me... to me... made me feel and ache and be proud of the country I grew up in. And he, like many many others, famous and not, is leaving too soon.
And not only that, he is telling us. They told us. And they're going out for one last tour. I can't imagine. I can't imagine being them. Being him. Being his family. I'm not even handling this well and I'm "just" a fan.
When I heard the news, I was broken hearted.
When I heard there would be a final tour, I was confused. Part of me doesn't want to go. Doesn't want to go and watch one of my favourite bands knowing it will be the last time, and knowing the reason why.
Jason says I need to go to give thanks. To show my gratitude to Gord and the band for everything they've given me... and us. I'm trying to look at it that way.
I felt similarly when my friend's Dad (my "Pa") came to say goodbye when his cancer came back and was terminal. It's hard to sit with someone knowing it's the final time you will see them. Death is a shock much of the time, but to know it is happening is a difficult thing to go through.
I want to write him a letter. I want to tell him everything he and his lyrics and his performances have meant to me, but I don't have the words. I'm choked up even writing this and this isn't even getting across all that I'm feeling.
I haven't talked about any of the other deaths that have hit lately, I usually just mourn in my own way and keep things light enough here. But this one... this one has hit me hard. I don't know many it hasn't, to be honest, and, well... I don't know what to do other than remind myself it's ok to be upset, and that as hard as it might feel for me right now, it's much much harder for the band and their families and man... cancer sucks.
I love the Hip. I always have, I always will. I hope this tour is a joyful experience for them all and that Gord and the boys feel the love we all have for them. I hope his passing, when it comes, is peaceful and as comfortable as it can be.
I hope the breaks in my heart heal and that some day I can listen to the Hip again without tears.
Thank you Gord, thank you boys. Thank you to the Tragically Hip for being so much more than a band and for defining what it means to be a Canadian.
I have not made it through this without tears. I send a hug out to any of you who may be feeling the same way.