Today, I want to tell you about a very special person named Mary Qinuajuak. Photographer Thomas Kneubuhler and I met Mary in December 2009, when we traveled to Akulivik, an Inuit community in Nunavik. Mary was one of the students in a class producing a chapter in the 2010 Quebec Roots: The Place Where I Live book.

Mary was smart and lively and fun. She had an amazing sense of humour and a great happy laugh that started as a chuckle and got bigger and bigger. And she laughed a lot. Mary dreamt of becoming a police officer. She planned to study in Montreal, but to return afterwards to work in Nunavik. In April, we saw Mary again at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival. CBC Television wanted to interview students about the Quebec Roots project, and Mary's teacher, Quinn Carter, felt she was the right person for the interview. And so, Mary not only gave a terrific interview, but she also read a little from her class's chapter. Though she said she was shy about appearing on TV, Mary turned out to be a real star.

That evening, the students and Quinn and other friends from Quebec Roots, came here for spaghetti supper, and again, Mary was the star. She charmed my neighbour Liz, cracked my husband up with her sense of humour, and together with her classmate Annie, translated a prayer that another classmate, Simon, said in Inuktitut. 

Tragically, Mary died in hospital in Povungituk on June 4. She and the rest of her graduating class were supposed to travel to Kenya later this month. The class is still planning to make the trip. I imagine it will be terribly hard for them to be in Africa without Mary, but I hope in some way, they'll be able to carry her with them in their hearts... so a part of Mary can come to Africa, too.

Many people loved Mary -- even people like me, who only got to spend a few days with her. I send my deepest condolences to her family and friends and community. May you find courage to deal with this terrible loss -- and may you always be able to remember the sound of Mary's laugh.