Today’s post was supposed to be a travel piece about the Italian city of Pompeii. Then circumstances changed.
I was writing the post in the spot where most of these posts are written, on the bus traveling to my job on Parliament Hill. As we got near to my stop I was reflecting on the people trapped in Pompeii when Vesuvius erupted and rained lava on the city. I wrote about the fragility of life, that we are usually unaware when we have an appointment with death.
When I arrived at my office I was informed that Jim Hillyer, Member of Parliament for Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner had been found dead in his office. He was 41. He leaves behind a wife and four children.
As I write this, on the bus going home at the end of the workday, full details of his passing are not yet known. Apparently there were some ongoing health issues. He had said earlier Tuesday he wasn’t feeling well. It was the day the federal budget was to be tabled, a day when members of Parliament are expected to be in the chamber of the House of Commons. I guess he figured he was well enough to do his job.
In almost 10 years working on Parliament Hill I have met many MPS, but I don’t recall ever meeting Jim Hillyer. As an introvert, I usually skip the social events; our paths never crossed professionally.
The House of Commons suspended sitting for the day, except for a few minutes to allow the party leaders to pay tribute to their departed colleague. Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Official Opposition spoke eloquently. It was the sort of situation when it really hits home just how meaningless politics is.
Today was supposed to be the start of debate on the budget. The government is proud of what it proposes. The opposition is horrified at the irresponsibility of the figures. But today turned out to be about life and death and whether the budget is balanced or not makes no difference.
I didn’t know Jim Hillyer, but I find his passing has affected me nonetheless. It seems he is too soon gone, and my heart aches for his wife and children. Death comes to us all, eventually, but it seems excessively cruel when it comes prematurely.
As we head into Good Friday and Easter, a lot of people will be reflecting on life, death, mortality and eternity. It’s what we do at this time of year. It’s generally more of an abstract thing, as we ponder questions of history and theology and God’s plan for the planet. Parliamentarians in Canada today are a little less abstract in considering those questions.
The post on Pompeii will show up soon. Today I too am pausing to reflect on mortality, to mourn with those who mourn. We know that for every Good Friday there is an Easter Sunday, but some days it still hurts.