13 December. 2011
It's impossible to formulate words expressing what I feel right now. N told me that you'd died, only yesterday after falling ill on your way to South Africa for the climate change conference (UNFCCC COP). But in my mind, you remain vibrant, full of life, smiling that dazzling smile of yours, & thinking of how to slip in an astute comment or two about gender into the conversation.
I've always admired the mentorship role you assume to help young CBD staff navigate their way. You open doors & take chances, shining the light on others. Whenever I take newbies out to play shinny hockey at one of Montreal's outdoor rinks, I tell them that everyone is on a level playing
You respected everyone as an unique individual with talents. You always make time for others, even when your office door is closed and you're furiously working to meet a tight deadline. You were never stingy with feedback, always delivering it with critical, thoughtful and eloquent poise. You go out of your way to help others, go to bat for the principles and the people that you believe in, even (and perhaps especially) when it is a steep upward battle. Thank you.
I admire the vitality, the life you bring to everything you do, to everywhere you go. Remember dancing in the hotel bar in Bonn at the end of the CBD COP-9? Or the many parties that you graciously hosted at your apartment(s)? So much delicious food & drink. A relaxing ambiance that puts everyone at ease. Great music. Best of all, stimulating conversation and company.
Do you remember all of the advice you (lovingly) gave me over the years? On relationships, jobs, professional development, the UN, family life, African jewelry? About gender, development, project implementation? And when I told you I was engaged ... to never give up on a career or rely solely on a man for money?
And you listened too. You're an excellent and astute listener. Perhaps that is why people love you so much and trust you. Good listeners are difficult to find, especially those who genuinely care.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention your extraordinary beauty (your physical beauty - I think it's already clear I think you are an extraordinarily beautiful person on the inside). When I first arrived at CBD, S, G and I were chatting. Somehow it came up that we were in unanimous agreement that you were the most stunning person at the office. We were later stunned to discover that you were over 40! How you manage to always look like you stepped off the cover of Vogue is beyond me.
Marie, I will miss you very, very dearly - as I am sure many, many other people will too. The light and laughter you bring into any room you enter is a quality possessed by very few individuals. I will miss your love of life, your passion for gender equality, your drive to nurture the growth of others and your ceaseless ability to live each day as if it were your last. You bring joy and inspiration to so many people, especially to me.
My condolences to your family, friends and colleagues.
There are several official tributes to Marie on the CBD and the Global Environment Facility websites. This unofficial one, penned by a colleague, beautifully captures Marie.
* * *
In one sense I consider myself lucky. On my last day at the CBD I had left notes for my colleagues, expressing my gratitude for what they had taught me. My letter to Marie was quite long and heartfelt, so at least she knew how special she was to me.