A year ago today the unimaginable happened. On December 26, 2012 we lost our executive director and friend, Rebecca Tarbotton. It was one of the hardest, most painful moments in Rainforest Action Network’s history.
Remembering that day and the days that followed makes my insides hurt and my throat close. Beyond the hurt, though, there are other feelings. Today I am trying to reflect not just on the pain of losing someone who was too young and so totally remarkable, but also on who she was when she was here and what she left behind, the mark she made on all of us and the work of re-balancing our planet.
Becky was a goofball who brought a sense of light into every room even when working on things as serious as the fate of our planet. She was also a humble visionary who brought RAN to new heights and showed no fear in the face of big corporate opposition. Today we honor Becky, we celebrate her, and we miss her.
It strikes me that there’s also something else worth reflecting on today. Our community, the people that make up the entire Rainforest Action Network. Along with remembering Becky, today is a time to honor Becky’s family, her husband, her friends, the RAN staff and board, and everyone else in this Network, because we all endured something horrible one year ago today. We lost someone we loved.
As I reflect back on the year, it’s clear to me that after December 26 something changed about the character of this community. In crises I’ve learned that communities have a choice: to split apart, lose direction and become hopeless or to pull in, hold each other tight and stand with one another. Amid the pain and the loss, we found a collective strength that didn’t exist before and has changed the character of Rainforest Action Network forever. Becky’s death did not break us, as much as it broke our hearts. In losing Becky, we chose to embody the best of her, her indomitable power, her ferocious commitment, and, as importantly, her playfulness.
The work that we as RAN did together this year has everything to do with Becky and how we responded after losing her. As RAN’s Chairman of the Board, Andre Carothers, said: “Becky was a truly catalytic leader-someone who, in two brief years at the helm of our organization, changed its DNA forever. She inspired us to build a movement strong enough to push for the transformational changes our planet truly needs.”
I know for sure that Becky would be so proud and thrilled by what RAN did this year, not just because of what we accomplished but because of the transformational way that we did it–moving from a place of anger and resistance to a place of real love and collective power. That probably would have sounded cheesy to me a year ago, but today I’m realizing it’s the only way real change happens.
Today, the Rainforest Action Network community isn’t just defined by what we do, but also by how we do it. This year we learned how to love each other through a crisis and to find strength through coming together, and those lessons permeate all the work we do.
To help us remember Becky and to honor the Force of Nature that she truly was, the RAN staff produced this short video with some of our favorite Becky clips…the silly and the serious. We hope it speaks to you.
We will love you forever Becky.