Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Road to Jerusalem

Today, Jack Layton will be laid to rest.

Some may find it odd that sometimes a man's most vociferous critics may be the ones who admire them the most.

I won't pretend I respeceted or admired Jack Layton any more than anyone else.

Nor will I pretend that the long mourning period observed by Layton's followers hasn't been more than a little off-putting. Perhaps even as off-putting as John Diefenbaker's funeral.

But the long mourning period did give me the opportunity to do something that Christie Blatchford didn't do when she wrote her graceless -- but not altogether unjustifiable -- comments: think long and hard about it.

My thoughts continually take me back to the evening of May 2, 2011, when the Conservative Party won a majority government. In the middle of finding the bottom of a celebratory bottle of Jack Daniels, I took some time out to pray for Layton's health. It was actually the first time I prayed for a politician's health. Strangely, it was the first time I had actually considered praying for the health of a politician.

At the time, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

It was entirely natural that my thoughts when back to that when Layton announced that he was stepping back -- temporarily -- to fight a new cancer. Many media commentators could tell right away that there was good reason to be concerned.

Once again, I prayed for Layton's health. Sadly, those prayers weren't answered.

But it also occurs to me that I may have been praying for the wrong thing. I'm reminded of a tale Evander Holyfield related in his book, Becoming Holyfield, regarding the passing of his mother. She had been in a car accident, and arrived at hospital in a coma.

Trying to focus on his training, Holyfield asked a close spiritual advisor what he should do. He was told to pray for the right thing to happen.

Those who have experienced a family member passing away from cancer -- this author has witnessed two family members die of the disease, and has had four others successfully fight it off, the youngest at the age of two years old -- understand full well how painful fighting terminal cancer is. Sometimes, the cancer cannot be beaten. The best thing to hope for is a quick, painless, merciful passing.

The specific details regarding Layton's final days are not of public knowledge. This is as it should be. We don't know how much pain Layton was suffering before his passing. His friends and family do, and that's information best reserved for themselves.

I take some comfort in hoping that Layton's passing was a peaceful one, and in hoping that he didn't suffer.

If he did, I take comfort in knowing that his passing at least ended that suffering. And although I disagree with Layton's politics, I admire Layton's character, and firmly believe he's in a much better place now.

If Layton's passing ended a period of suffering, it was the right thing to happen. It's a sad thing nonetheless, but there's comfort to be taken from it.

Jack Layton has followed Tommy Douglas down the road to Jerusalem. There is no doubt in my heart that he arrived safely.

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