The tweet from The Tragically Hip announcing the news of frontman Gord Downie’s death in a statement, was published just as a newscast was ending.
I told Ken, then pressed the talkback and told producer Ryan. He was about to play some happy music – a bumper, as it’s known – to bring us back from the break into a segment we call The Roundup – The News That Didn’t Quite Make the News.
“Don’t play any music”, I said. “We’ll come in cold.” We had no time to discuss what we would do, we just did it.
Ryan signalled us when the commercial ended and we delivered the grim news about Downie’s death and quoted the statement. We talked for a couple of minutes about how much Downie meant to Canada and how he decided to spend his last months on this earth doing what he felt was important. He reminded us, and our Prime Minister, about the importance of reconciliation with our indigenous peoples. He gave us memorable music and a final tour we wouldn’t forget. He loved his family; four children and a wife who had survived breast cancer. He was a good man. A good Canadian. Our Prime Minister, his friend, wept as he made a statement about “our friend Gord”.
We had previously recorded tributes to play, including an hour-long show that aired later in the day. That’s the blessing and the curse of knowing someone is going to die. You can prepare, but you’re still never really ready. It’s a great responsibility, being the first to tell someone this kind of news. This text came in after the show:
“Lisa Brandt inspired me to go do something Canadian in honor of Gord. So I went to Tim Hortons and paid it forward for the person in the car behind me. The only irony is I am telling you about it.”
That’s a very “Gord” thing to do. It doesn’t matter how big or small the thing is, as long as it’s good. And if you’re moved to do something bigger, such as donate to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research at Sunnybrook Hospital, that would be good too. A link to the page is HERE.
I’m reminded of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “It is not length of life, but depth of life.” Thank you for the example, Gord.