“Go For It”
Reverend Brent Hawkes led the worship service which was the state funeral for Jack Layton, today.
I don’t know, exactly, what goes into a state funeral – though I do know it involves more nationalism and tax dollars than “regular” funerals. Either way, it was a lovely memorial to the dynamic leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada – a fitting send-off.
Stephen Lewis and Brent Hawkes, along with Mike and Sarah – Jack’s children – offered words of praise for Layton’s accomplishments as well as words that called people to action: action and activism that would build on Layton’s legacy.
Jack Layton worked for justice and equality, and he did not rest when it came to matters of raising up oppressed people or helping those in impoverished circumstances. And his work did not stem from a purely egotistical sense of self, but a deeper place of being part of a bigger picture. Rev. Hawkes spoke of his conversations with Layton, and asking Layton whether it would be okay if he delved into the spiritual, even faith-specific (Christian) language about death at the funeral, and he remembers Layton saying “Go for it.”
Rev. Hawkes said, “It’s not about which spiritual path you choose, it’s about choosing a spiritual path and going deeper and respecting people on various paths. It’s about learning and growing and coming together. And, ultimately, it’s about making the world a better place for those who will come after us.”
Remembering his father, Michael Layton recounts a time when he went sailing with Jack, and the wind died down when they got to the middle of the lake and had to struggle to paddle back to land; his dad’s words: “‘You could wait forever for perfect conditions,’ he said, ‘or you can make the best of what you’ve got.’ That’s what he did every day of his life. He made the most of each moment.”
Stephen Lewis, a leader-politician himself, summed up Layton’s politics (and, arguably, Layton’s theological perspective as well): “if there was one word that might sum up Jack Layton’s unabashed, social democratic message it would be “generosity.” He wanted, in the simplest and most visceral terms, a more generous Canada.”
Layton was a statesman who loved his country and wanted the best for all people in it, as well as in the world. For us, we are invited to dive into the work of just, compassionate, and generous living – we are invited to “go for it,” and live what we say we believe.
Thanks be to God for the life of Jack Layton. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”