On Saturday the funeral of Jack Layton, NPD leader, champion of the underdog, devoted father and loving husband took place at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto at 2:00 p.m. Top politicians from Canada attended the event but what will go down in history is the love and devotion of citizens who lined the streets and sat in front of their televisions to honour Jack Layton.
Inside City Hall the family gathered, strong with grace preparing for the final ride. In her grandmother's arms Jack Layton's granddaughter Beatrice rested. According to all that knew him, Jack Layton worshiped his granddaughter often speaking about her to those who would listen.
The scene was heartbreaking as Layton's coffin was put in the hearse with Olivia Chow looking on.
The long last ride for Jack Layton started at city Hall where officers from Toronto Police Service carried his casket as his family followed to the waiting hearse. Those who had lined the area clapped and chanted Thank you Jack, for the man that has held the hearts of Canada this week. There were many who shouted out their love for his widow, Olivia, and his family.
Chow and Layton's children from his first marriage, Michael and Sarah, followed the man they loved through the streets of Toronto. Chow was a portrait of grace and dignity as she left City Hall for the last time with Jack.
Those lining the streets were as much VIP's to Layton as the top brass that are part of the ceremony inside the hall. He truly cared for those that he served. Groups of people cheered for Layton as his hearse passed at each point of the ride.
Inside Roy Thomson Hall music played. Layton would have loved the notes that floated throughout the hall, classic and proud. Layton's casket was placed on the stage as Kyrie was performed by Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto.
The singing of Oh Canada marked the beginning of the ceremony. Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, expressed how he felt shock and sadness when he heard the news Monday, as he gave an Aboriginal blessing. He offered up a feather, "Dream no little dreams," as he ended the blessing.
The celebration of Jack Layton's was a time to be celebrate the diversity of Canada and to be inspired by his life. Layton wanted this celebration of life to represent all the people in Canada.
Reverend Hawkes, from the Metropolitan Community Church, said he was wearing academic robes instead of religious robes to respect the diversity of religion as orange is not yet recognized as a colour for religious robes.
A video tribute of Layton was then played with those close to him adding to pieces of Layton's most noted parts of history. Layton said that he wanted his grand daughter Beatrice to live in a positive Canada. Olivia said that family was always important to Jack.
Jack said he feel in love with Olivia in 4 nano seconds. Their love affair was shown with pictures. Olivia said that she will look forward to make sure that Jack's voice is not silenced. "I think that's a good way to celebrate his life."
As he gave his eulogy, Stephen Lewis spoke of how this week the overwhelming voice was one of love. Layton's views of the future of Canada written on his death bed is a manifesto of social democracy Lewis said which brought the audience to yell out in cheers. Lewis spoke of the causes that Layton took on, all for those who needed a champion. Lewis said that his son Michael can now carry that torch. "Jack made the leap to federal politics look easy," Lewis said. "He was fearless in his positions."
Lewis said that Jack knew we are heading into economic troubling times. He wanted a Canada that would embrace fairness and compassion. Layton was so proud of his party. He cultivated and mentored every member of the caucus. We will see his work in the days ahead from that caucus.
"Layton was a lovely, lovely man. Filled with laughter", Lewis said, his romance with Olivia was beautiful. "I loved Jack's goodness, Lewis said adding, "We are resolved to bring respect for principle and generosity back to life."
His spokesman Karl Belanger spoke next. His work was to get the media to speak about Layton, nicely if possible. He spoke of how Jack thought that it was possible to change Canada for the better and that it was necessary. He was ambitious for his community, his country. It wasn't personal ambition, it was teamwork. He brought people together to make Canada a better country and to find solutions. "We have to do it for our children, for their children," he said Jack would say.
Mike Layton thanked everyone for the incredible support the family has been shown. Michael told those inside Roy Thomson about his dad. He told of a bike ride with his dad, dozens of flats and increasing colourful language. This is how my father lived his whole life. The road was impossible and yet they made it. Michael said that his father taught him "You can wait for perfect conditions, or you can do the best with what you've got now."
Michael said that he made the most of every moment. He taught his son to, "Always have a dream that is longer than a lifetime."
Sarah spoke of growing up at political functions. She said that her father was more generous with his family than the public would ever know, "The busiest man in the world always had time for what mattered most." He called his mother every day. Looking at her father's casket Sarah spoke of the times her father embarrassed her and her brother, "Now these are precious memories."
Sarah told her father that his second grandchild was expected the night his party won the most seats in the House in Commons.
"Dad we love you," Sarah said ending her eulogy, "And Olivia, our dad's soul mate we love you too. You're been a rock for us for so many years. Dad would be so proud."
Steven Page sang Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.
Rev. Hawkes spoke about how in July Jack and Olivia asked him to their home. The couple wanted to discuss their plans for if Jack did not beat the cancer that he was battling. He said that Layton was in awe of those that he met and those who had given their trust to him. He spoke of his love of Olivia. Jack was sad that he didn't have more time. Layton said to him how he lived his life was the way he worshiped. Hawkes asked Layton how churchy he could be during the ceremony at which Jack said "go for it." Rev. Hawkes said that we trust that our spiritual journey. Jack said he was not afraid to die and that he would be standing next to his dad the next time Oh Canada.
"I've been a great and blessed life. I have made some mistakes," Layton said to Hawkes during those days that came after. He wanted to be able to say he was sorry to those that he wanted to.
Layton wanted his life ceremony to focus on the work that is still needed in Canada. He wanted the service to inspire and challenge us to come together working together in partnership, bringing young people together and opposing views are welcome for a better place for our children and their children.
Rev. Hawkes said that life is about remembering how each other is doing. "We won't be able to say Jack how's Olivia is doing but we can say Hey Jack how are we doing?"
Jack Layton knew he was dying last weekend Hawkes said. Hawkes said that the torch is now passed to us to make the world a better place.
Lorraine Segato sang Rise Up bringing the audience to their feet.
Anne McGrath, Layton's chief of staff, said that Layton extended the torch to us and it is up to us to build a better Canada and do not let anyone say it's impossible.
Rev. Hawkes closed the ceremony with Jack's words, Love is better than anger, hope is better than fear and optimism is better than despair.
As the choir sang of loving one another Layton's casket was carried from the hall. It was fitting for a man who loved with gusto all that life put in his path.
Layton's ashes will rest in three Canadian spots, the place of rest of his father and maternal grandparents at Wyman United Church cemetery in Hudson, Que., St. James Cemetery in Toronto and on Toronto Island. Toronto Island is where Jack and Olivia vowed to love each other forever when they wed in 1988.
(special thanks to CP24 for permission of screen shots from outside Roy Thomson Hall)