Sarah Layton’s Op-Ed: Join the Campaign to Carry on Jack’s Message

TORONTO – You called him Jack Layton. I called him Dad. He would have been 62 last week. And I can hardly believe that more than a year has passed since we celebrated his last birthday. So much has happened since — in our family, across our country.

Mourning personal loss alongside millions of Canadians isn’t something you sign up for. But for my family, at least, it has been an unexpected gift. The incredible support people have given us motivates me to approach this day not as a marker of loss, but as a celebration of a life well lived.

I think it’s every politician’s fate to live as a string of stereotypes in the public’s eye. I saw my dad do that for years. But now I feel like Canadians are getting to know someone a little closer to the “real” man — in a way that seemed less possible when he was alive.

That big-hearted, optimistic Jack Layton? That’s him.

That’s the dad who helped me through countless high-school all-nighters. Who taught me to swim. Who suggested we cycle the 200 kilometres to my job at a summer camp, just for the fun of it and because it was Father’s Day. Who enriched my childhood with constant challenge and warm encouragement. Who opened our home to every friend and neighbour with an idea or problem. Who worked hard for his beloved Toronto and helped transform Canadian politics. The man who was always there for me, even when he was provinces away.

How I wish that he could have been there when my daughter Solace was born, with Olivia, my mom and my husband, Hugh. He was so open with his love and hopes for her big sister Beatrice and he was already dreaming of what the future would hold for his new granddaughter that was on the way, with her ultrasound picture by his bedside in his final days.

When I look into her young blue eyes, I see the same excitement of what’s to come that glistened in his. I hope that when his grandchildren grow up they are inspired to be as passionate as he was in their life’s work.

My father’s best talent and pleasure was to empower people around him. Growing up, he’d push me and my brother Mike to open our hearts to become the best we could be. I know his colleagues in politics experienced that as well. And in his final days, he embodied that essence of his in an open letter to Canadians. A love letter, really, ending with his famous challenge: “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.”

Since then, many people have told me how my dad’s message has moved them to action in their own lives. That’s the best tribute anyone could ever pay him. I know how much he’d love to see those personal stories shared. And I’d like to invite you to do just that — between now and Aug. 22, the anniversary of his death.

If my dad’s message has moved you, write him back. Let others know how you’re renewing your own love, hope and optimism in this country of ours. You can do that by visiting Created by the Broadbent Institute, this is an online space where you can express yourself in whatever way feels right — in text or in images. I’ll be visiting the website and I’d be honoured if you’d join me.

When my father passed away, thousands of people filled Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square with fabulous chalk-drawn tributes. This Aug. 22, we’ll be back at city hall, but this time with messages from coast to coast to coast.

We will see that his dream is in good hands.

Source: Toronto Star