OTTAWA - First came his political family, the New Democrat MPs and staffers who called Jack Layton a brother-in-arms, a boss and a friend.


By early afternoon Wednesday, it was time for Layton's extended national family to say their goodbyes as he lay in state in the foyer of the House of Commons.


Pat Kerwin, an Ottawa retiree, said he'd known Layton since he became leader. His legacy was assured, Kerwin said, thanks to his efforts rebuilding the party and at the same time building the bridge to Quebec. His record as a Toronto city politician before that extends in many directions.


Waiting more than three hours to spend just moments in front of the flag-draped coffin was worth it, Kerwin said.


"I've canvassed for him in the rain. I will stand for him in the rain."

The line of hundreds of waiting mourners soon stretched back from the Peace Tower and around the East Block of the Parliament Buildings.

RCMP estimated that more than 1,500 people had moved through the foyer by late afternoon, with hundreds more still waiting.

A light wind batted at orange balloons tied to the railings around Parliament Hill and many a lapel in the crowd sported a single orange rose. A cheer rose up from the crowd as Layton's widow Olivia and his son and daughter came out to offer their thanks.

"Truly an amazing sight on Parliament Hill," Layton's son Mike said on his Twitter account.

"My sincerest thanks to all who waited and are still waiting to give their condolences."

Like the thousands who jammed NDP rallies in the final day of the federal election, Wednesday's procession was a slice of Canadian life.

In came hipsters with puffy hair and the aging hippies with puffy knees. Some closed their eyes, others muttered soft prayers and crossed themselves in front of the coffin before moving along. One woman in purple scrubs gave a jaunty salute, others blew kisses. Some wiped tears from red eyes.

They shuffled over the marble tiles of the foyer in silence, paused to scribble a note or a signature in a book of condolence and left.

Some who filed through were civil servants, government badges peeking out from their pockets.

Every now and again, a few people would pause long enough for a white-gloved guard to urge them gently on their way.

Every thirty minutes or so, there would be a brief halt as the honour guard of House of Commons security staff was relieved, with a new group of five moving in to take up the vigil.

The outpouring of grief over Layton's death has come from across the country.

Jessica Campbell, from northern B.C., happened to be in Ottawa on this cloudy afternoon. As a member of the NDP, she decided she would come by to pay her respects.

She carried a bouquet of orange daisies and carnations.

"I will miss him very much," she said.