Layton was at peace on his final day

Rev. Brent Hawkes spent time with Jack Layton the day before he died and says the late politician was a spiritual man and was at peace.
Rev. Brent Hawkes championed a number of causes alongside Jack Layton 5:50

Jack Layton was thankful for his life and was at peace the day before it came to an end, according to Rev. Brent Hawkes.

The senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto spent time with Layton and his wife, Olivia Chow, the weekend prior to his death  on Monday August 22 at 4:45 a.m. ET.

Hawkes, who will preside over Layton's state funeral, said he spent some "wonderful private time" with Layton the Friday before he died, and visited him again on Sunday –  what would be Layton's last full day of his 61 years.

They talked about funeral plans, and they talked about dying.

"Jack was really thankful for his life and for the people that he met and what he was able to accomplish," Hawkes said during an interview with Heather Hiscox on CBC News Network Friday. "He was sad that he couldn't take the next step and do more. But he was ready and at peace."

Layton and Chow used to attend the Metropolitan Community Church's services on Christmas that were held at Roy Thomson Hall – the same venue where Layton's funeral will be held Saturday. Hawkes noted the irony of holding his funeral in a place where they shared many joyous occasions.

Layton a 'very spiritual person'

Layton's longtime friend said he once told him that he lived every day of his life as an act of worship. "Jack was a very spiritual person. People didn't realize that. He didn't wear it on his sleeve," said Hawkes.

He and Layton began discussing funeral plans in July, Hawkes said. Layton was optimistic he would beat cancer but he wanted the preparations made in case he didn't. They were hoping the plan would be filed away for years, said Hawkes. 

"Unfortunately, we had to pull it out sooner than we thought," said Hawkes, adding that he was touched that Layton asked him to be part of the service.

The NDP leader, who was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009 and a new, undisclosed form of the disease in July, specified what themes and messages he wanted conveyed at his funeral. Layton was known for paying great attention to details.

Layton didn't want an overly sad funeral, said Hawkes, whose church emphasizes the celebration of life. "But he was also very clear he didn't want it to be just about him. He wanted it to be about the messages, he wanted it to be about the movement, and the movement in the broadest sense to make Canada a better place."

Layton wanted his celebration of life to include a challenge to Canadians to work together to improve each other's lives, Hawkes said.

He will be delivering some very clear and direct messages to Canadians on Layton's behalf at Saturday's service, the pastor said.

The messages will be similar to the themes contained in the letter Layton wrote to Canadians that was made public hours after he died. It urged Canadians to work together for a more fair, equal society and to favour love over anger, hope over fear and optimism over despair.

Hawkes said Layton and Chow dedicated as much time as they could to fundraisers and other community activities and that he will miss Layton's boundless energy and optimism.

"A lot of us are going to miss that wise, wise leader," he said.