Recently, a series of events prompted some major changes in my life and movements. We lost Alison Jolly on February 6, 2014, and rather than continue waiting for perfection, I decided to leave my secure job and nice little apartment in Boston to take a chance on the dreams we made for Madagascar. I’m on my way, stopping through England, where I was given the honor to dedicate a talk to her at the meeting for the Great Britain Primate Society. Reflecting on our time together, it’s her beautiful character, and the honor of taking her investment in my life forward, that will guide my life for many years to come.
Alison Jolly has my family over for tea and crumpets during their UK visit
Here is the memory I shared for her memorial at the American Association of Physical Anthropology 2014 meeting in Calgary:
“The last day I spent with Alison, we had just returned from my evening seminar and other meetings at Oxford Brookes. We were back at the University of Sussex, where I did my MA in International Education and Development. Over tea in my supervisor’s office, she shared her earliest observations and the enduring hope she had for education. This was the first time I ever heard her explain it so personally: what it meant to her for education to rise on the conservation agenda, and how grateful she was for my next steps. She showed a pride in me that I’ve never seen from anyone. She never told me she was sick, but as she shared post-colonization’s affect on education and endorsed my goals, she gently suggested that she would not take a central role in the outcomes, but trusted we would see it through. She said goodbye with a warm smile and a glimpse of tears. I never thought that the next time I would be in England, she would no longer be here with me.
As I begin to take the steps we’ve dreamt, I keep breaking into tears, and need to channel her reassuring focus and glimmer of magic that she inspired on becoming a voice for a world much greater than us. It’s her gentle, consistent faith that she drew on to reframe my setbacks as though they were interesting lessons on a much longer journey. It’s an honor and great responsibility to know I hold in me a big part of her dreams. I am trying to remember how lucky I am to have so many blissful memories from her house, on the phone, or alongside her, as she kept me, and those around us, mesmerized. I will hold on to my memories to channel the comfort in knowing that the one I had admired most, also believed in me, cared that I accomplish my dreams, and saw our time as its preparation.
She showed me that to care with an open heart, you must always care for your happiness, too. It was clear she saw it as a gift to channel the wonders of all life in Madagascar, and could appreciate the beauty of all of our worth. I hope in her honor, we will build better bridges to include each voice to work together in the development of a sustainable future.
I am beginning to understand that her enduring hope was always courage, even in her final days. I will take you with me wherever the road may lead, tompoko. Misaotra betsaka. ”
Also, one obituary referenced this blog, accounting for Alison’s education outlook: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/39230/title/Esteemed-Primatologist-Dies/
I was the lucky recipient of a beautiful goodbye party and a lot of good wishes from my kids at the school in Boston.
Taking it all on the road with me! xx