Originally published in The Telegram on Nov. 24, 2015
Something happened at the funeral of Ron Hynes Monday afternoon, something you may not have seen if you were watching the live TV broadcast or heard in the live radio coverage. If you had been among those in the Basilica, you would have certainly felt it.
It started off as funerals do, and contained all the elements for a beautiful send-off. Hynes' trademark hat and his guitar were arranged next to several bouquets of flowers and the podium which held the urn containing his ashes.
A string trio played a gentle arrangement of "Sonny's Dream" as people took their seats, filling the sanctuary until it was standing room only.
Cory Tetford and Paul Kinsman performed "Amazing Grace." Des Walsh read from Scripture and Rick Mercer read a Maya Angelou poem. Hynes' daughters, Lily, Lori, Rebecca and Elena, sang his songs two at a time, first "Thirty for Sixty," then "I Love You More Than God."
Then something happened. Singer/songwriter Amelia Curran, backed by the members of The Once on harmonies and Sandy Morris on guitar, performed Hynes's "Leaving on the Evening Tide."
By the time they had finished the first chorus, the congregation was singing along, tentatively at first and then louder, and no one needed the lyrics on paper.
It had stopped being a funeral and had turned into a full-on celebration of the life of one of the province's most beloved musicians.
Hynes died Nov. 19 after a battle with cancer, three weeks shy of his 65th birthday.
Friend and Wonderful Grand Band member Greg Malone gave an emphatic and emotional eulogy, earning a standing ovation like the band may have earned in a concert hall.
Calling his old friend an artist, a wordsmith and a troubadour - and noting his personal struggles and irascibility - Malone was on the brink of tears as he recalled how the pair had met (at a mutual friend's house in university,
Hynes was stuck in the bathroom and Malone helped him get the door open) and what he meant to him and the province
"He loved the people of Newfoundland and their stories, endlessly. He channelled them. He distilled them for us. What a dimension it has given our lives to have Ron there, singing back to us the echo of our own loves and longings, all packaged in poetry. Our pain and joy in lyrical verse," Malone said.
"That will keep us going through hard times and good times. We can turn to Ron."
Wonderful Grand Band members Morris and Glenn Simmons performed a rendition of "Man of a Thousand Songs," and Anita Best sang "Atlantic Blue," Hynes' song written in memory of the Ocean Ranger disaster, giving it new reference.
Actress Cathy Jones led the congregation in a Buddhist tonglen practice, thinking of Hynes' suffering on inhalation and sending him love in an outward breath.
"I've got to tell you, this is the most informal service we've ever had here," Father Paul Lundrigan said in the ceremony's closing remarks.
As Hynes' ashes were carried by his nephew, Joel, in a procession out of the Basilica, singer Alan Doyle led the other musicians and Hynes' daughters in "The St. John's Waltz." Congregation members, some in tears, others with smiles, held each other and waltzed in the sanctuary aisles.
Hynes' funeral was followed by a public reception at the Delta hotel, where Doyle, Curran, Tetford, The Once, Lennie Gallant, Kim Stockwood, Damhnait Doyle and others performed and shared stories.