I want permission to add my voice to the chorus of people who greatly admired Jaye Robinson, the Toronto City Councillor who succumbed to cancer recently at the far-too-early age of 61.

Last week, at Jaye’s celebration of life, everyone, from her sons who were left without a mother to her friends who were denied a confidant to her colleagues now absent a mentor, remembered her in powerful stories that wove an incredible tapestry together of a person who deserved every word of it.

Who was Jaye Robinson, whom so many spoke so powerfully about?

This person that even if you knew her from a distance, you felt you knew her well.

It sometimes seems a cliche when we say someone is larger than life.

But what happens when it is true?

Some people in the world just are larger than life.

Whether their outsized presence fills gaps and voids in the soundtrack of life, or perhaps their energy makes the experience of the moment feel more meta than it ordinarily should, those we describe as larger than life just are. When listening to those who knew Jaye so well, you know she was naturally that person.

Rarely have I been at a celebration of life where the laughter, emphatic head nodding, and the speakers’ desire to do the deceased proud outshone the tears. There were justifiably many moments of pain and sorrow. Beautifully, the tears that flowed were chased away by a rainbow, silencing the rain and emerging from unwanted clouds to remind us that although we are no longer close to the splendour, we can admire it from afar.

One story at the celebration bears retelling, and I hope Jaye’s family is okay with my attempt to paraphrase and share it. It is too beautiful not to.

It started seemingly as a retelling of an ordinary memory by her husband Billy about how he and Jaye randomly stopped for a riverside picnic on a trip one day many years ago. I could imagine the two so young, energetic, and beaming, with matching, nonstop smiles adorning their faces. While eating, Billy spotted a muddy bottle stuck ways down in the river shore, which provided a second discovery of a mysterious note inside. Upon freeing the bottle and the note, perhaps in anticipation of a historical clue to the region’s past, he read its contents.

It was a marriage proposal note from Jaye, who decided that after seven lucky years together, she and Billy’s destiny was to be together forever.

A message in a bottle setting your course for life. It does not get much larger than that, primarily when written by a woman who lived every day as a gleeful hunt to find the golden treasure in the ordinary, to substitute tradition for orbiting, to eschew convention for invention. A message in a bottle from your future life partner. A partner who could create the illusion of a historical discovery while transforming the script that became the telling of their future.

My interaction with Jaye started when we were student politicians at the University of Guelph, campaigning for new athletic facilities. Later, our professional paths crossed as she worked for the city in events, and I ran my marketing agency. In our last installment, after more campaigning by Jaye, she was our city councillor for many years, and like many of my neighbours, I was a satisfied electoral supporter. Remarkably, although not to those who knew her, each professional change brought the same Jaye to your door. Her mandate may have changed, but her fantastic persona never wavered.

Jaye’s celebration of life event seemed filled with as many people like me- former colleagues, constituents, and collaborators as there were friends and family. I suspect the first group, let’s call us her fans, wants to let the second group, her kin, know how much we appreciate their sharing Jaye with us.

All of our lives are larger for it.

One thought on “Jaye

  1. Thank you Mark for that note perfect tribute to Jaye. I was at her COL too, and cried and laughed. The message in a bottle idea was so fun, and her Coaching prowess using “duck duck goose” to inspire 14 year old boys was a stroke of brilliance. Jaye left us all too soon, but she changed us all “for good”.

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