I made the trip to Whitby on April 15 so that the OACS could pay its respects to our friend, Jim Flaherty. The Flaherty family chose to meet the public in the Abilities Centre, a support facility for youth of various abilities which remained close to the heart of Jim and Christine over the years. Although the visitation did not begin until 6:30 PM, the evening line up was already very long when I joined. Waiting in line, I was able to note the many wonderful features of the place including a vast gymnasium / exercises area with sunlight streaming in!
Our great national human mosaic was on display as Canadians waited patiently for the doors to open. There were people of all walks of life and background waiting to pay their respects. Close family, friends and both provincial and federal politicians were present. I recognized Jason Kenny, Steven Fletcher and Tim Hudak.
Entering the room featuring the casket we were greeted by family members. Jim’s sister Nora was interested in who the OACS represented. We chatted about our gratitude for what Jim had done to establish the Equity in Education Tax Credit (EETC) program during the Harris and Eves days in Ontario. Sister Ann was so gracious in accepting our condolences for the family. Christine Elliot was present but not able to interact with the line. These folks are so brave; facing so many mourners while composing their own grief.
I stood for a moment before the flag draped coffin guarded by two RCMP officers. A balanced touch of Canadian symbols along with personal images brought a humble and subdued sense of the man. Jim was a willing servant of Ontario and Canada. His reputation has crossed political lines and international boundaries. Yet, in his death, he remains a beloved family man.
I deposited the card and letter of condolence in a beautiful basket for the family to read later. In another basket, I gave our OACS donation to the Ability Centre in lieu of flowers as requested by the family. Exiting the building into the cool evening air, I tugged my hat down and buttoned the overcoat. The sharp wind caused my eyes to tear.