Yer Favourites: Reflections on The Tragically Hip

Trying to sort through a fraction of what I’m feeling before I start to cry again.

There is a consensus among us all. A communal sorrow of Canadians coast to coast. I have been taking comfort in reading the words of others and reliving our shared memories. Their experiences are so similar to mine, we could have all been there together, and my heart aches, and it’s not fair. Terminal. That means the end. That means there will be no more.

Each profile I read, every time a band covers a song, when I stop and think too long, I get choked up. Last night at WayHome, the Arkells played Music at Work and I lost it. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. I don’t know how to describe this collective grief.

These songs, the soundtrack of my life, each one a different chapter in my history. Some transport you back like a time machine, some you just can’t bear to listen to again. The words are weighty and each line is loaded and they mean something to me. A deep something, something different each time I hear it. It means something to you as well. Some of the most significant moments of my life feature The Tragically Hip. My happiest memories. I just sit and think and reflect and then I feel sad again. I’m mourning something that hasn’t happened yet, something that will never happen again.

– – –

We’re sitting around that glass-top patio table in the backyard, hashing it out for hours and someone keeps grabbing refills. You think you know this song. As you tip your head back, you think you see a shooting star, but it was gone too fast to catch it.

A bonfire on a summer night and you can’t tell which is warmer, your toes as they move closer to the flame or the dying day pressing in around you from all sides. Your whole body smells like fire and will take days to wash out. The smoke burns your eyes but you don’t move away, because you know in a few seconds, the wind will change directions and you’ll be okay. Someone pulls out a guitar, there’s always a guitar nearby, and they play you a little something they’ve been practicing. And everyone sings along, some loud and some soft, but all together at once and it is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard.

The screen door snaps shut behind you as you head to the water and the music fades away as you get closer. It disappears as you jump in.

The gravel, kicking up and hitting the sides of the car, keeps time as you head out, or home, and there is comfortable silence between you as you all look out your own window. Everyone is too tired and sore to speak, but the radio plays on.

Trying to fall asleep on someone else’s dorm room floor but every time you doze off, those punching chords rouse you. The playlist is looping and after seven times, you know all the words. That night in Toronto, it could be every night.

A warm coffee in your hands as you bob your head along, steeling yourself before another long day of hard work.

Slow dancing in front of a cast iron stove as the music trickles in from the floor above. It’s snowing outside and you can’t see the lake anymore at this time of night. As you whisper the words in your heart, you know Gord was right, that it was worth the wait.

It’s Canada Day, in an open field, surrounded by friends who used to be strangers. Everyone screaming that we also come from downtown and we were born ready for you. For what? For whom? For life? Love? A challenge? A triumph? Armed with will and determination and grace, too, above all to see us though.

The sadness of watching your Jays hat fly off your head when the wind tipped it as you race across the lake. Mourning your own 50 mission cap that had been your most loyal travel companion.

A car passing by with the windows down and you wish they had a red light so you could listen a little longer.

Fireworks. Always fireworks in our hearts. Sparklers too, if you’re lucky.

A laugh so loud you think your brain or chest or both will explode and you wonder if anyone else has ever heard anything nearly as funny as this in the history of the world. You’re lucky to have such funny friends. You want to bottle this moment forever. Someone should write this down before we forget.