Vilia's gone

I got the news that Vilia Tosio had died from a group message on Facebook late Sunday afternoon.  It felt unreal,  impossible and asynchronous.  It seems like a breath ago that she was on the stage at the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts doing her dress rehearsal for TEDxFortMcMurray.  I remember how much she struggled that night, and how she overcame her struggles and hit it out of the park at the event the following day.

Vilia Tosio became part of the fabric of the Wood Buffalo community in a short period of years.  The lives that she positively affected are in the hundreds, if not thousands, as she became known as the "breast feeding lady" and birthing advocate.  On the one hand, she would never pass up an opportunity to advocate for the things she was passionate about, on the other, she would never pass up a chance to help someone who was struggling with a pregnancy, breast-feeding, or the whole process of becoming a mother.  You can see that clear as day in the comments that people are sharing as the news of Vilia's passing spreads through social media.

She was a proud alum of the Leadership Wood Buffalo program, and would often participate during learning days and at alumni gatherings.  Last year, she was a proud recipient of a Heart of Wood Buffalo Leadership Award for her tremendous community service and advocacy.

I only knew Vilia at the community level.  I've met her husband Mike several times over the years, and participated in many round table discussions and processes with her.  However, I didn't know her well at a personal level.  I'm feeling regret that I didn't take the opportunity to get to know her better, removed from the pressing causes of the day and the various initiatives that we went through together.

"One can never be too kind; this world needs a little more kindness" - Vilia

Some people walk through the world and create gentle and soothing ripples, others stir up the water and create impressive waves.  Vilia was definitely a wave maker, but she did so with admirable determination, grace and respect.  According to friends and colleagues, she was actively engaged, communicating and wanting to help, even in her final days.

I'm going to give the last words to Vilia, via a video she made for presentation at the January 6th Leadership Wood Buffalo learning day.


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