I received some incredibly sad news today. Yesterday, February 24th, 2011, Therese Lebeau passed away. Most of you know her as Grandma, or Grandma Hugs.
This note was posted on our Facebook wall by her son Michel:
Hi There. I’m Michel…. Grandma Therese’s son. It’s with great sadness in my heart that I must inform you all that Grandma passed away yesterday after a short fight with cancer. I was in Montreal with her last week and got to make my peace with her. While I was there, she shared with me that her last 3 Shambhala experiences, all the people she met, all the hugs she shared, and all the new things she experienced were among her best memories as she prepares herself for the other side. So if you are one of the Shamily member who got to hug Grandma, I say “Thank You for making my mom feel special and loved”.
This post rendered me speechless. I sat down and had a good cry.
Grandma, possibly more so than any other single Shambhala attendee, has made a huge impact on our festival and it’s culture. Over the past 3 years, a Grandma Hug became a rite of passage. Therese was nothing short of inspiring. Her love, and her acceptance of people from all walks of life in our Farmily showed me a grace that it’s sometimes easy to forget we humans have.
I’d like to share a bit of my experiences with Grandma in honour of her memory.
I’ve known Therese’s son, Michel, through the Shambhala forums for years now, probably since about 2005.
Grandma’s first Shambhala was 2008, the same year I first started working at the Shambhala office. I remember getting a phone call from Michel that spring, asking permission to arrive on the Tuesday with Grandma because he was afraid waiting in the lineup in the mid-day heat would be too much for her. I happily made the arrangements for them – thrilled that they would be attending with 3 generations of their family.
I was posted at the gate, that pre-Shambhala Tuesday. It was the only year I worked at the gate. And when Michel rolled in with his RV and Grandma – hot, sweaty, tired and dusty though I was, they immediately put a smile on my face. As their tickets were being processed, I walked over to greet them.
Then something really special happened. I received the honour of Grandma’s first Shambhala hug. I didn’t know then what that meant. I had no idea she would become an iconic Shambhala figure. But when I look back now, I feel truly blessed.
At Shambhala 2009, I had the pleasure of spending about an hour with Therese, one on one. We talked about the festival, and what it meant to her. She said some deeply touching things. Things that made me feel all at once very blessed, and proud to do what I do.
We know that this festival that we craft so carefully is a hugely positive experience for many people, but nothing quite solidifies that like the words coming directly from someone’s mouth. She thanked me. And I thanked her. That simple hour of conversation with her was probably one of the best and most meaningful experiences I’ve ever had at Shambhala. It was an oasis of calm among the chaos. An interaction full of mutual appreciation for each other.
Unfortunately, in 2010, I didn’t get my Grandma Hug, nor did I see her. My showtime work/sleeping schedule changed in such a way that our paths didn’t cross. Which, today as I write this, I hugely regret.
I would like to thank Grandma for being a part of Shambhala History. Her unconditional love, the kind that could only come from a grandparent, has been such an inspiration. Shambhala 2008-2010 were truly special because of her.
So Shambhaznes, please take a moment to remember Grandma. To Michel, her grandson Zach, and the rest of the family – our thoughts and hearts are with you.
Rest in Peace, Grandma. You are loved by your Shamily. 12,000 strong. You will not be forgotten.