. . . We take [politics] very seriously, but we know that at the end of the day, politics has its limits and its purpose. Politics and even his indefatiguable optimism won't cure Jack Layton. Perhaps medicine will. Perhaps a miracle will. Perhaps they won't.
But we—and I pray that he—can take comfort in the fact that politics has led to friendship. It's my hope that Jack can take comfort in knowing that he has friends across the country that are praying for his return to health.
Get well, Jack.
I wrote those words a little under a month ago. Now Jack Layton, leader of the official opposition, is dead—he died this morning surrounded by his wife, children, and loved ones, at his home.
Now the prayers must shift from Jack's health to his family's comfort as they mourn his passing. And comfort, indeed, that what I wrote remains true: despite impossible differences of political persuasion, Canadians are praying for and alongside Layton's family and friends in genuine hope that they will be comforted in this time of grief.
No doubt newspapers will—rightfully—be full of accolades about Jack's accomplishments in political life over the coming days and weeks; how he moved the NDP into the mainstream of Canadian politics, how his charisma and hard work brought his party into the official opposition; how he successfully leveraged his political power to achieve the goals of his party even in minority parliaments. Jack Layton was an excellent politician. This is a high compliment: political office, John Calvin suggests, is "the highest gift of [God's] benificence." Jack Layton dedicated his life to this task, and his service was a gift to Canada.
Politics is not an end in itself. Politics opens itself up into and often reveals greater, deeper human longings. As I said a month ago, "Politics has its limits and purpose." While Jack Layton's policy proposals at times seemed to underestimate these limits, as his life waned, it became apparent that Jack found much more to human life than politics. Following his announcement last month, he said:
I came home that night and I said, "I don't know what I'm feeling here. I shouldn't be feeling like I'm feeling. I'm feeling almost like a joyful feeling . . . I woke up the next morning and there were all these emails and phone messages of people praying for me. I realized that what must have happened was that as people saw it on the news, they were thinking of me in some way, and in many cases sending prayers, and from many different faith backgrounds, too."
It is fitting that some of his last words on the public record expressed a sense of joy that comes as a result of the prayers of many. Not politics; prayer. Not parliament; prayer. Jack had a greater hope.
It is my hope, and my prayer, that Jack's legacy will be shaped by this recognition. It is also my prayer that his family can experience comfort in the days to come. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, on Jack Layton, his family, and his country.