In Celebration of
Emma Lisa Antunes Leckey
Emma Lisa Antunes Leckey
Emma was born on 29th April, 1996 and died on 20th March, 2018.
She was just short of her 22nd birthday, just short of graduating from the University of Toronto, and just short of leaving on a trip to Italy, a reward for all her hard work. She was struck by a drunk driver on 15th March and never regained consciousness. In her death, her organ donation saved another life.
Emma was a beautiful girl, a beautiful spirit, and a beautiful soul.
She was a happy and easy child, and we watched with pride as she grew into a caring, giving, and loving woman.
It seems that each one of her friends considered her their best friend. She was, one said, the glue that kept groups together and the quiet presence behind the scenes that kept everything right.
At the University of Toronto she was, as her research project professor said, “the student you always want to have.” She stood out by her contributions and strove to improve them.
In all the meetings we had with many wonderful young people who knew her at U of T last week, there was one consistent theme: Emma always wanted to help other people; she was never the one asking for help. In fact, she planned to devote her life to doing just that. We know this because she said it in everything she did, but also in a letter she wrote to herself last September, where she spoke of “your dedication to bettering the lives of those you interact with”.
Emma had the strongest moral compass of anyone you have ever met. She knew right was right and wrong was wrong and she was going to do something about it. She wasn’t one to say: “Somebody should do something” - she got up and volunteered and gave her time and her energy and her organisational ability. And she led and inspired others to do the same.
She was passionate about many causes related to social injustice wherever she perceived it. She instinctively sided with the underprivileged, the marginalised, and the suffering – and she did something about it.
She fought against cancer through the Relay for Life of the Canadian Cancer Society. She organised the Relay at Colonel By High School and continued to do so at the U of T, ultimately being the organiser for the entire university.
She fought against homophobia and was a strong ally of the LGBTQ community: she took on the role of co-chair of Woodsworth Inclusive, the support group at her college for equality and respect for that community.
She fought to improve the lot of Indigenous peoples, and chose to devote her research project to ethical aspects of Indigenous health.
She didn’t come home to Ottawa last month during reading week, because she chose to stay in Toronto and work for an organisation that welcomes newcomers to Canada.
Somehow, while doing all this, she also met her own highest academic ambitions, maintaining a 3.75 GPA. We are immensely grateful to the U of T for granting her degree, framing it, and presenting it to us. Emma would particularly have liked the words “with high distinction”.
But wait. In case you think Emma was “all serious”, you should know that, as a university friend said, “Every moment spent with Emma was fun”. Yes, it was.
She loved music. Her tastes were as eclectic as you can get: one day classical, one day Kanye. You never knew what would be in the next link she would send you and be excited about discovering. Who now will tell us about the next Daniel Caesar before anyone else has heard of him?
She loved concerts. She volunteered at Bluesfest and was never happier than when heading off to Osheaga.
She loved dogs, especially her beloved dachshunds, Lisa and Lucas.
She loved travelling, especially discovering new places and things by herself.
She loved blue cheese, bananagrams, badminton, and pedicures.
She hated Donald Trump, clichés, and seeing anyone going through a hard time.
She was sweet, goofy, and funny. Her laugh came from deep down and was irresistible.
She was kind, generous, and thoughtful. She never had any money but gave the best gifts.
She was never on time for anything, but she was worth waiting for. Heads turned towards her to catch the beautiful smile she bestowed.
We are determined that Emma will live on and that all the good she would have done in her life will still get done. At U of T there is talk of an Emma Leckey award or scholarship or endowment; there are other possibilities, too, but these are early days.
Already, though, the Relay for Life event at Algonquin College has been held in her honour, and raised $12,000.
The SurveyMonkey office in Ottawa, where her brother Patrick works, has collected $10,000 in her name.
If you would like to show your support for Emma’s causes, by all means consider making a contribution in her name to an organisation such as the following (these are just suggestions; please choose a charity you feel comfortable with):
Canadian Cancer Society – Relay for Life
Native Women’s Association of Canada
Or, in light of the horrific way in which her beautiful life was ripped away, you might want to think about supporting:
Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD)
Ontario Students against Impaired Driving (OSAID)
But even if her death spurs much, and ongoing, good, what will be missing forever is the person that Emma was.
Just a few weeks ago Emma wrote the following in a notebook, in among lecture and essay notes. We don’t know why she wrote this – it seems she just had to express what she was feeling.
“I love this feeling when you’re still half asleep but you have the warm comfort of those first sips of coffee inside you. The sun outside the window finds its way onto every possible corner of the neighbourhood as if to say: “Wake up! You have the day ahead of you” and you know that today is yours, so do with it what you most will.”
That’s how Emma felt about her life: it was just beginning, it was bright and brilliant in every sense, and she was going to grasp it and live it to the full.
Emma was our daughter, our sister, our golden girl, our crown jewel, our love. The loss to the world is enormous. Our hearts are irreparably broken.
In choosing the dates and times for visitations and for celebrating Emma’s life, we have tried to give the maximum opportunity to all those, young and old, professional and student, in town and out, who we know have something to say to us about Emma. Friends are invited to visit the Beechwood National Memorial Centre, 280 Beechwood Ave. on Thursday, 29th March from 18:00 to 20:00 and Saturday, 31st March after 14:00 with a celebration of Emma's life at 16:00.
A memorial service is also being planned at the University of Toronto in early April (details to follow).
Maggie Geoff Sara Mark Patrick