This is a tribute to my wife Muriel who passed away too soon from post-partum depression. It gives a taste of what a wonderfully smart, talented, passionate, and loving person and mother she was to her family, friends and to the world.
Below is the English adaptation of a tribute that was published in Mieux Vivre (“Live Better”), a local French magazine from Muriel’s hometown of Sanary-Sur-Mer. It was the result of a joint effort by Muriel’s friends around the world, her parents, and her husband, to provide a snapshot of the life of Muriel, who was a wonderful person and proud Sanaryian.
Muriel Lauvige was born in Marseille, France in 1978 and was raised in Sanary-sur-Mer, a picturesque village on the French Riviera. She was the descendent of two generations of small business owners in Sanary-sur-Mer. Muriel was a deeply kind person who inherited many admirable traits from her late grandmother, Mrs. Piéri, a nurse in Sanary-sur-Mer with whom she was very close.
Muriel studied French linguistics and teaching at the University of Nice and the University of Aix-Marseille, and later earned her Master’s degree in education and international development at the University of London.
Muriel’s first passion was teaching French as a foreign language. She began her impressive international career as a French and Education Officer with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Fiji, and continued to teach French in the UK and Jamaica. Muriel’s career aspirations shifted to gender equality and lifting people out of poverty through education, after she witnessed the suffering of women and children in her travels.
Muriel moved to Thailand to work with the United Nations on gender issues and eventually became the Education Coordinator for Bangkok’s urban refugee center where she established a formal curriculum as well as created work and education exchange opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers. In Thailand, she met her husband, Vincent, a Canadian, who, like her, had a humanitarian heart.
Together, they moved to Timor-Leste (East Timor) with the United Nations where Muriel was a Gender Adviser for the Ministry of Education, and then to New York and Indonesia where Muriel worked for UNICEF. In 2010, they settled in Geneva, Switzerland with positions at the United Nations. In 2014, their lovely daughter Théa was born.
Between missions, Muriel continued to teach the French language and share her love of France, its culture, and cuisine through her side-project, French My Way. In her spare time, she wrote, illustrated, and independently published a widely lauded French language comic book designed for adult French language beginner students entitled This is NOT a Normal French Book.
Muriel’s talents didn’t stop there: as a gifted seamstress, she designed and made her own wedding dress, and then produced a line of silk skirts inspired by her travels in Asia and her love of textiles and fashion.
Her generosity, sense of humor, enthusiastic spirit, and dedication to the well-being of others was exceptional. She had a warm and accepting heart that touched many people in both her personal and professional life, including helping a Congolese family become Canadian citizens. Muriel’s love for languages and the French culture was contagious. She went the extra mile to understand the unique learning styles of her students. She had a zest for life, an engaging personality, and an unwavering loyalty to her friends.
Muriel cherished her hometown of Sanary-sur-Mer, which she called “the most beautiful place in the world.” Muriel sadly passed away on 1 July 2015. The sound of her laughter still lingers in the air. Vincent and Théa will remain loyal ambassadors of Sanary-sur-Mer and of Muriel’s lifework. Her unique journey inspired those who were fortunate to know her, and we hope it will continue to be a source of inspiration for many.
She created a family where ever she went.
Whether it was with her own family or with her friends, Muriel created a close-knit tribe that she stayed connected with where ever she went. And as she traveled, she continued to build this tribe to include people from all over the world who she found as sources of inspiration and strength. She loved her tribe and was so happy and in love when our daughter Théa was born and came into the core of her tribe.
She was creative and artistic.
Muriel wanted to share her creativity and love of French so she created French My Way where she used the business to explore new ways to make learning French fun. This included writing, designing and illustrating This is NOT a normal French book. The concept and idea behind the book was from a 30-day challenge… her thoughts after the challenge:
I loved to see my project grow and become something much more professional, first I thought I was going to write a draft and find a professional designer to make the book, I decided to learn how to draw with a teacher, bought a new computer and also learned Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign. I am proud of the play journey I have started. It has also changed my outlook on the project, it is really not work anymore but play.
She was a true humanitarian.
Muriel lived her life to the fullest and wanted others to be able to do the same, whether it’s helping someone to discover something new or putting people in touch with each other to enhance their own lives. The best example of this was how Muriel befriended a Congolese refugee in Bangkok in 2008 and spent the next several years helping him and his family resettle and become Canadian citizens. Read Quesney’s tribute to Muriel here.
She loved to learn.
Muriel’s love and hunger to learn was renowned among her family and friends, and people who would eventually get to know her. She read with veracity and had diverse tastes in books and magazines. She took every chance she could to discover the world and to learn as much as she could about it. For example, in addition to documenting her year in 2013 through photos, Muriel also spent one month in 2013 documenting her efforts to learn Cantonese (i.e Chinese) so she could have a simple conversation with my grand mother.
She loved food.
Muriel was passionate about food and everything that would tickle the taste buds. No matter where she was, she loved exploring markets and would bring home unique fruits, vegetables and other local products to taste or to turn into home-cooked meals. She also would find the most interesting, unique and special places to eat where ever she was. For example, she wanted to share this passion and started a blog about all the great places to eat in Geneva. You can see the map we made on her French My Way blog.
She was adventurous.
In addition to living and working in many countries and cultures, Muriel was also a big believer in living life to the fullest and trying new experiences (even if only just once). For example, she was a beach-sand-sun person so she wasn’t really drawn to snow and cold. But when winter came around, she wanted to try skiing. This was Muriel – she was always ready to learn new things and skills and didn’t let any barriers (like age) get in the way. We spent every weekend for two months heading up the mountain and this was the result!
She loved to dance.
Whether it was African, South American, Asian, modern, jazz, interpretive, Muriel loved to express herself with dance. She danced with style and had a rhythm that showed her free spirit. When we first met in Bangkok, she convinced me to take salsa lessons and wrote about the experience in this article (it’s in French) for the magazine Gavroche.
She was my partner and the love of my life.
This was Muriel. She was amazing.
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