Today is a day of celebration, Carme Farre, has defended her thesis. As we celebrate, I am aware that there is somebody who is missing: Maria O´Neill. In the last years of Maria’s work in the Faculty, Carme became Maria’s eyes, her constant academic helper and friend. I know Maria would have talked with Carme about her thesis and her aspirations in the same way that she helped so many around her in her quiet unassuming way. Today, Maria would have sat quietly in the audience transmitting courage and intellectual strength to Carme.
When I first met Maria, long years ago, I was aware that I was in the presence of a most extraordinary woman. She radiated peace, quietude, love and care for those around her. Her greatest gift to me over the years was that of patience, of assuming what life brought to one, not with resignation but with determination and courage. It is impossible for anybody who met her or who was gifted with her friendship not to be influenced by her quiet patience, her strength, her intellectual rigor as an academic, her talent as a teacher and her generosity as a colleague. The last time I saw her at a dinner, here in Lleida, we sat beside each other and her concern was not for her waning strength and vision, but for me as I was about to go into hospital. That was Maria: others came before herself. Locked in close conversation for the evening, she spoke to me quite frankly. “I have not long to go, there is a date set for me to go. You know Sue, there is no room in our lives for rancour, hatred and other petty things. Life is too short for everybody, too precious to be wasted on the unnecessary” Those words have stayed with me ever since.
Maria was and is one of those rare human beings who leave an ESTELA behind them, and she will remain with us always. Today as we celebrate Carme’s thesis we also celebrate Maria and her unique contribution to her Department, to those she helped and guided and, for those of us who were her friends, we celebrate the honour we had as such. “Tush” she would have said if she heard me now. “Tush” I say now: Maria thank you for your life and the many gifts you gave us throughout all those years. Maria: your presence is in this room as it is in our hearts as you continue to walk beside us towards our own horizon.