It’s difficult to summarize the admiration and respect I have for Gord Downie. I feel like he’s been with me my whole life, imparting knowledge, inspiring me, creatively driving me forward.
And now the world has been granted another of his gifts, the posthumous release “Away Is Mine” (2020 Gordieland Inc.)
The album is masterful in its simplicity. It’s raw and it’s honest; a bouquet of statements and reflections about the fragility of life, devoid or presumption or pretense.
But this post is not about the album, it’s more about the artist’s gifts. It’s about the fact that Gord Downie thought to bestow creative offerings to the world with his final days, instead of focusing inwardly as one may be wont to do when faced with an irrefutable countdown of time remaining on this earth.
Throughout my life, I have often reflected on Gord’s words, because so many of them resonate closely with how I see the world. Or perhaps it’s the other way around—his words helped clarify some of the things I was trying to understand. It’s probably a bit of both. The truth is, his lyrics and music continue to form the soundtrack of my life, and always will.
There’s no denying Gord Downie’s influence on me, and I venture to say, countless people throughout the country. And where some hold a bittersweet sentiment to posthumous releases, I reflect on Away Is Mine with a fondness and admiration, as though I were sitting down with an old friend to get caught up. And I’m so thankful he took the time to reach out. Characteristically thoughtful.
After all, this is yet another gift from a man who made the stalwart decision to shout to the world when facing death. He could have retreated. He could have faded. But instead, he took a deep breath, turned and cried life and love to an audience of millions. Those millions will hold onto the memories of the sheer bravery of that act for the remainder of their days. In a world where so many of us turn inwardly and close out the world because the alternative is too painful, Gord Downie turned and literally faced the music.
I think the album is great. But I’m biased because I feel like I grew up with Gord, even though I never met him. I’d be hard-pressed to dislike something he released.
But it’s more than that. For me, the album represents something more profound than the songs. It’s the sentiment that we have limited time, scarce resources and finite ability to shout against the stark finality of mortality.
It’s true that there’s “no dress rehearsal”. I also “ponder the endlessness of the stars”. We’re indeed “forced to bed, but we’re free to dream”. And “I thought you beat the inevitability of death to death just a little bit”.
And it’s true that “to be together, you must step into the most; surrounded by those who love you the most.”
Thanks, Gord, for giving us Away Is Mine. And for giving right up until the end. Or, the beginning.