Hands for Jack

August 24, 2011

On Monday, we lost Jack Layton. The leader of Canada’s official opposition party, and a former Toronto city councillor, Mr. Layton passed away after a heroic fight against cancer. Even in his last days, he stopped to consider all of us, writing a Letter To Canadians that has struck a chord with one and all.

I have spent the last few days trying to figure out how I might speak about this loss with my children, and how to find ways to honour Jack’s legacy today and every day.

This morning, I walked the dog along the beach under a particularly orange sunrise, trying to figure out something we could do, immediately, to keep Jack in mind.

Inspired by the memorials that have been popping up around this city and in our nation’s capital, I thought that perhaps we could spend some time designing a three part mural in Jack’s honour, celebrating the Love, Optimism, and Hope he propounded in his letter.

I figured that we might use these designs to paint our fence, or as a springboard for a larger community project.

Of course, as the day evolved, things changed.

Bea had a friend over to visit this morning. Towards the end of her visit, I asked her what types of images she would paint on a wall dedicated to either “Love” or “Hope” or “Optimism.” Each one of her answers included a reference to human hands. For “Love,” she suggested “people holding hands.” For “Peace or Hope” she suggested “hands praying.” And, after I explained what “Optimism” meant, she talked about hands in the air, raised in hope or celebration.

Perhaps the thing to do, then, would be something incredibly simple, at least for now. Perhaps the thing to do would be to raise our hands for Jack right here and now. So, before our sweet guest took her leave, I had the three children dip their hands in dark orange paint and print them on orange paper. It’s a start, at least…perhaps, the start of a movement.

Our results are above and below. To me, our guest’s prints, at the top of the triptych, symbolize Love, Bea’s handprints, in the center, symbolize Optimism, and Tobes’ prints, at the bottom, Hope. But, I’ll let you decide.

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