I was rushing to get us on the 2:30 ferry from Horseshoe Bay so that we could be back on the Island and hopefully most of the way home before the concert started.
We didn’t make it, but thankfully there was a 3:10 departure, which meant, at least in theory, that we would be at least most of the way home before it started and could catch the start of it on the radio in the car, and watch the rest of it on TV once we pulled in.
Then we had to take a detour – yes, the ferry took a detour – to investigate a report of a boat on fire.
But I was back in the car with the radio on, tuned into the CBC, before 5:30 p.m. when Gordie and the boys took the stage – if only barely.
In the weeks leading up to the show, I thought about skipping it altogether. I really did. Some part of me thought that somehow, by not watching or listening to the final Tragically Hip concert, it might not be a thing that was happening at all.
Like it would just…go away.
Gord’s cancer wouldn’t be terminal.
Maybe he wouldn’t have it at all.
Like, maybe it would just have been a dream where I was in a lifeboat designed for 10 – and 10 only – as 4,000 men died in the water, and 500 more were thrashing, madly, as parasites might in your blood.
But I knew, of course, that wouldn’t be the case, just as I knew I wouldn’t be missing that show.
They were – they are – more than just a band.
They are, in many ways, emblematic of our Canadian identity.
I only had to stop once to cry on the way up Island.
I was close a couple of times, but when Gordie thanked us all for keeping him pushing all these years before the band launched into Fiddler’s Green, I broke down and had to pull over.
He was thanking us?
No, Gord. It’s we who need to thank you.
The Tragically Hip were the band we all shared in our collective Canadian conscience.
You could say they were the one thing we all shared besides our fingers and toes, fingers and toes.
We’ve spent the last 30 or so years singing along and are now trying to get a handle on what it will be like without you guys around, which, in some ways, is like pondering the endlessness of the stars.
But thanks to you, we’ve all squeezed the stick and we’ve all pulled the trigger, collectively, as a nation – even those of us who weren’t around for the goal you were singing about.
We’ve dreamed of impossible vacations and gotten all teary from the wind.
We’ve been a polar bear at the Central Park Zoo.
And now, here we all are, still having no simple explanation for anything important, following the unknown.
But thanks to you and this 15-show, cross-Canada farewell tour – and the concert we watched last Saturday where a 52-year-old man with terminal brain cancer fought for 30 songs with a teleprompter so he could read his own words to celebrate Canada one more time instead of being surrounded by nurses and doctors in a bed somewhere – we’ve truly seen Courage.
And Grace, Too.