Posted in Writing Life

Thoughts on a State Funeral

20 years ago, Jack Layton founded the white ribbon campaign to end violence against women. Now it is a movement across 60 countries. That’s what I learned while watching his funeral service today. I was bawling, not over the sadness, but the dignity and nobleness of the occasion.

I’m spurred on by Jack’s integrity, by his perseverance and adherence to his values even when everyone thought them foolish and unachievable. His message, conveyed by everyone who spoke today: it is possible, dream big, work toward it, remember that the dream is bigger than any one person, and love well.

I’m proud to be Canadian today. Even though we have the most conservative government we’ve ever had, the PM, realizing Jack Layton’s appeal and significance, ordered a state funeral.

I’m proud that the public outpouring of flowers, tears, personal messages left on the chalk wall weren’t for a celebrity, but for an honest man.

The service included an Aboriginal blessing, a reading from the bible, and from the Qur’an, and was led by Rev Dr. Brent Hawkes, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church.

After many moving eulogies (my favourite was Stephen Lewis’s, a statesman in his own right), Rev Dr. Hawkes began his sermon by referring to an occasion when he was even more nervous–meeting his in-laws. He then spoke about how Jack always greeted him: “Hi Brent, how’s John?”–Rev Dr. Hawkes’s husband, as he explained in his sermon.

What is important now, and what I pray for, is that this fervor and outpouring of emotion doesn’t fizzle away in daily routine or the next attention grabbing moment. Rev. Dr. Hawkes raised his hand to pass on the torch. Please pick it up–we all should pick it up–to shine light, to bring love into every corner.

I’ve changed the signature on my email to remind myself of Jack’s final words:

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” – Jack Layton

This afternoon I cried proudly, sadly, telling my kids to stop fidgeting and watch because this might never happen again in our lifetimes: the Left having a public forum like this, stately speaking our values and truth–inclusion, economic justice, dignity for everyone–and singing our songs on every local and national tv station.


And this:



Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on a State Funeral

  1. It sounds such a moving occasion, Lilian. I hope, like you, that his death will serve to bring people together under the ethical sentiments he promoted so well.

  2. How I do miss Jack, and we must work to keep his vision alive – he was a beautiful human being. When I feel like crying, I tell myself that such a light can never go out, and that he is somewhere smiling at us.

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