Two weeks has now passed since you were so cruelly taken from us…we are still struggling to understand what would drive another person to do this. We are filling our days making lists of things to do and chasing bits of paper…it all means nothing and is being done only to keep our minds off the fact that we are without you. I sit here reflecting on all that we had, we were so happy and nobody can take that away from us. I love you. Aaron xx
I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be writing this. Ymke and I met at school when we were 16 and she is family to me. There are so many things that we have shared that it is difficult to know where to begin. I witnessed her huge interest and compassion for animal welfare, veganism and then gorillas. She was always so hard working and dedicated. Even during our A levels, she was indoors revising, whilst I would be doing everything but that!! She taught me how to cook tofu and once I poured myself a glass of soya milk, took one sip, and spat it across the room as Ymke was in fits of laughter! We had some great holidays together and even went to jive dancing lessons!!
When she was in Rwanda we used to write long letters to each other (this was pre-email) and her letters would be filled of exciting gorilla encounters and her work. Her love for gorillas was so great that I started refering to her as Ymke “the gorilla woman”! This caused some confusion at my wedding, as the person sitting next to her was relieved to find out that I called her this due to her work and not because she had a serious problem with facial hair!!
She always kept in touch. Always came to see me wherever I was so I am so so glad that my husband Pete and I were able to be with her on her 40th. We saw the Black Eyed Peas and were jumping around saying it felt like we were 17 again! I am so grateful that we had that weekend with her because this is how I will remember her. She was happier than I had seen her in a long time. Happier and content. In fact a few days before she died we had started a conversation about the Buddhist concept of happiness.
I do not want the horror of her death to overshadow the essence of who she is, and I mean that in the present tense because I believe her life is eternal. I am so sorry and sad for her parents and Aaron and although I will miss her terribly, Ymke really lived her life and she made a huge difference in her work and in the people who met her. She would be totally overwhelmed and embarrassed at all these tributes, which just proves what a modest person was!!
I would like to end by sharing a Buddhist quote that has helped me through the darkness this last week:
-When winter arrives,trees and other plants temporarily lose their leaves. But those plants and trees possess the life to send forth new green shoots when spring comes. Human death is like that, but we possess a life force that leads us to a new life-to a new mission-immediately and without pain. (Daisaku Ikeda)
I believe that Ymkes life force was so strong that she is indeed working away on her next project!
Forever in my heart, Ymke.
Caroline Scott xxxxxxxxxx
Ymke May 2010
It’s so hard to leave a tribute for someone that should still be here…
Ymke was a good friend who I met at King’s in London. We got to know each other particularly when she worked with me on student security at the Union (yes, she was a bouncer once, believe it or not!) We did a few course modules together (I studied Environmental Science, Ymke was Zoology), including Primates – she got A’s in her essays – I was told that ‘there are books on Primates that were published after 1963, Angela’. Indeed, she introduced me to the Science Reference Library after that!
Ymke was one in a million – someone who lived her dream, rather than just talking about it. Even during university, when most of us were working in record shops or festivals during the hols, Ymke was in Uganda? taking a close look at her beloved primates. We lived in bedsitters in the same house for a short while after graduating/travel and she even dragged me along to a few Gorilla Organisation fundraisers at school fetes, such was her passion.
Ymke’s escape from Rwanda was incredible – I was working at the Careers Service at the University of London at the time, desperately trying to find out whether she had got out okay – when we did speak her story was horrific – and I was so relieved that she was safe.
Over the past few years I have gone the traditional route – married, three children, part time job – but Ymke always made every effort to stay in touch. I managed to catch up with her quite a few times on her trips back and loved to hear all about her exotic life in Africa – and hoped that I would get a chance to visit when the kids were older. I was so chuffed when she got together with Aaron – being a primatologist isn’t the easiest lifestyle in the world – and of course they were perfect for each other.
Ymke was often talked about in our house – mostly because she gave us some beautiful hand-stitched napkins and table mats from Rwanda which are used whenever we have visitors – they’re always a great conversation starter.
On Friday my daughter Annelies took a doll Ymke had given her to school to show and tell. She didn’t really know the detail of what’s happened of course, but she knew the significance of the doll and wanted people to know what an amazing person her mummy’s friend was.
Anyway, words cannot ever express what Ymke was to me – such a good friend, so full of life, so dedicated to the causes that mattered to her, and so sorely missed.
My heart goes out to Aaron and her family.
Rest in Peace, Ymke, the world has lost an amazing person.