Tribute to Zoë Nudell

Zoë's life was celebrated November 5 at Pier 21 by a profoundly sad and focused gathering of her friends -- some 600 of us -- representing all aspect's of Zoe's life.



5 November 2013

Zoë’s life was celebrated yesterday evening (November 5) at Pier 21 by a profoundly sad and focused gathering of her friends — some 600 of us — representing all aspect’s of Zoe’s life. Pier 21 was overflowing. Please send in your impressions on the evening.

On Wednesday evening, October 30, Zoë Nudell was struck down by a car in Hamilton, Ontario. She was out for an evening run. The driver has been arrested for impaired driving causing death. Please see the links in the sidebar below for more details.

This sudden end to Zoë’s life is a tremendous blow to everyone who knew her, and a lot of people knew and loved Zoë. She was a remarkable woman. Artist, sailor, teacher, dancer, meditator: Zoë’s life was big; it embraced many people and disciplines. The collective sense of loss is profound. Words fail in trying to describe her, and the wake of sadness her untimely passing has left behind.

Zoë is survived by her father David Nudell, and her long-term partner Ben Gallagher. Zoë’s mother Molly Nudell died in 2007.


The following account of Zoë’s death is from her partner, Ben Gallagher

As so many of you know, this past Wednesday October 30th the precious human life of Zoe Nudell was taken. I wanted to give you the details I know about what happened, and her final days. She had gone for a jog at around 5:30, to run up the steps of the escarpment with plans of sketching Hamilton and the harbour below. As she reached the entrance to the steps, a drunk driver descending the hill jumped the guard rail and struck her. She immediately suffered devastating brain injuries, as well as skull fractures and a punctured lung. Due to those injuries and lack of oxygen, she became brain dead. Witnesses on the scene restrained the driver, and she was attended to very quickly by emergency services.

After a few hours I was very worried that she wasn’t back, and rode my bike over to the steps, where I encountered police cars around the scene of the accident. They eventually brought me to the police station to meet with the investigating detectives, and I went from there to the hospital to identify her body. I arrived there at around 11:30, and stayed with her. They were sustaining her body with a ventilator and drugs to maintain her blood pressure, among other things. My parents arrived as soon as they could, and through Bakes Mitchell I was able to contact her father David, who left from Germany to be with her body.

The following day she was given a CT scan to better determine whether there was blood flow to her brain. After David and I had time sitting with her, the doctors gave a second official assessment that she was brain dead, which stands now as the legal time of her death. Once that happened, we were asked to decide whether or not Zoe would want to be involved with their organ donation program, the Trillium Gift of Life.

We sat for a while, and considered that Zoe was the most fierce, brave, generous, and kind person that we knew. Getting to imagine that even after her death she would be able to help someone felt like a good thing, and so we agreed.

This process was a complicated one, involving lots of bloodwork as well as searching for potential matches in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta for those organs of hers that were still viable. They managed to find a recipient for her liver, which they said was beautiful. Her heart was also in excellent condition, but despite their best efforts it was impossible to locate someone who fit the necessary requirements in terms of size and blood-type, and eventually they decided there was no more time to keep looking. The surgery began just after 3 o’clock, and lasted a few hours. By this time the rest of my family had arrived. We were able to sit with her body, finally unplugged from the machinery and stilled, by 6 p.m. on Friday. Her body, which had been kept warm for days, was cool, and the bruising began to show more clearly on her face. Because the coroner still had to complete an autopsy for court purposes the tubes and lines were left in, but they felt somehow less invasive, and it was clear that she was dead. I felt, despite all the evidence of the damages caused by the accident, that we could see again how beautiful and precious she was. We meditated for a while, breathing in what suffering we sensed and breathing out calm and peace, to send her consciousness away on its journey as best as we could.

-Ben Gallagher


You’ll have to go now.
These here are coming with me.
Coming with me.
They’ll show themselves
What it is to be
Richard or Zoe or Doug.

I don’t profess to make anything happen.
I’m not the Mad Hatter, I just serve tea.
I don’t profess to hold court
Not King…
Occasionally the jester.
For they will rule themselves, these children.
So when they return
And you tell stories of wealth in them
New found,
I created nothing.
Let it arise.
The sun was a blanket,
The sea was a bed,
Gave it up to each other
Before we broke bread.

-Zoë Nudell

Written when Zoë was 16 in the voice of a Sea School instructor speaking to parents. This is what she went on to do as a teacher herself, at the Sea School and everywhere she went. -Crane Stookey


“A 33-old jogger was struck by a car.”
Zoë, how could this have been you,
The intense life inside you,
The love and passion,
The joy and creativity,
Uncertainty and intensity,
in a moment—

Your story will not end
but continues in the threads of our lives,
the many, many who loved you.

We can all be a little outrageous
a little brave,
a little witty,
a little passionate,
a little vulnerable,
in your memory.

We will dance wildly with you,
Perceive the world vividly
Feel its poetry and art
And love each other.

We will share
All you have given us.
You gave so much.
Good bye, my dearest heart friend.

-Julia Sable


Life is as strong
And fragile
As a spider’s thread.

Don’t put off
The important things
Because you are busy.

Be present in each moment.
Express your love.

Death is real
And comes without warning.

Don’t be afraid.
This is cause to celebrate life
Moment by moment.

-Julia Sable


I found this today in a letter Zoë wrote me years ago when she was traveling in Europe.

“I have been missing my friends. Not in a teary way or not exactly in a ‘want to see them way’. I can’t quite grab how it is. Maybe it’s that space makes room for appreciation. Yes I do think that’s a lot of it. I already knew all of you were special — the cream of the f***ing crop in fact — and I knew you meant a lot to me but somehow it is as if I am watching clips of slow motion film — mute and in colour. And I can see you all in silence. I can see you move, smile. I can see how beautiful you all are dammit! (And I think you know I’m not talking of the body I think we were good at our relationships too.) And where I am now I am really beginning to understand how vital working healthy relationships are and how difficult to be mature enough to form and keep them.”

I can see you, Zoë. You are beautiful.

-Rhiannon Wells


So shocked to see you go this soon. Just yesterday I babysat you, you babysat my daughter. You helped your mother on her final journey with such grace and open heart. You inherited her art but produced it in your own style. We will hold your father and Ben in our hearts, we can only imagine their grief laced with pride in who you are and appreciation for your love given to them. -Diane Hardman


Zoë was a Renaissance woman, so skilled in everything — from art to athletics — but perhaps her greatest gift was her strong, warm, confident and joyous presence that radiated exuberance to everyone, that cheered everyone.

She was of that first class of the Shambhala School, when we started out w/ 20 some mostly sangha kids in Halifax 1993. She participated in everything with ease, brilliance, and joyful commaraderie. She loved enacting the Shakespeare Comedies at Pt. Pleasant Park in particular. She built boats at the Sea School, sailed, and trained young sailors.

For years her outrageous ikebana arrangements with bits of plastic, wood, and/or wire along with flowers startled us into AWAKE at the Halifax Shambhala Centre.

During the Sakyong’s Being Brave a few summers ago in Halifax, Zoe stayed at the HSC creating an art camp for kids, making amazing creations with the children, creations that lingered and delighted us for quite a while after the program ended.

Her so confident, bright presence still radiates, every time we bring her to mind.

-Linda Lewis


Zoë, Zoë, life.
Green and swift, so passionate,
Dzongsar protects you.

-Sarah Cox



Bright open face of love
Energy poised for creative display
Insight beyond ordinary
We will miss your joyful presence.

Love June


Running youth, fleeting
Life, why is it so unfair—
Numbness sets my soul.

Mindy Moore


Tribute to a Bright star

Zoë shone ……
Brilliance outside and in.
Clear mind, beautiful smile,
Generous, without bounds.

Love you Zoë.
Your light still shines on here,
While we wish you safe journeys there.

-Petra Mudie


Though I did not know you Zoe, you look so familiar
My heart vibrates with your sudden, unprepared for passing
With the loss that all your loved ones are feeling, are dying and being born from
With the loss that our world has sustained.

Pass on, pass on
Continue to do your work from afar
Or from right next to us
We will hear an unknown whisper
And feel a friendly footfall
And sense that life is being born.

-Joan Whitacre


For David

Many the people many the oceans I crossed
I arrive at these poor brother burials
So I could give you the last gift owed to death
and talk (why—) with mute ash,
now that fortune tore you from me, you
oh poor (wrongly) brother (wrongly) taken from me
now still anyway this–what a distant mood of parents
handed down as the sad gift for burials–
accept, soaked with tears of a brother
and into forever brother farewell and farewell.

-Catullus* 101
Translated from the Latin by Anne Carson
from her book NOXv * Roman, c. 84-c. 54 BCE.

-sent in by Jane Fuller


One personal observation on the sukhavati: Bakes Mitchell led the service with gravity and clarity. His words and grounded presence brought the room together — erasing the lines between sangha and non-sangha. He somehow found a way to convey the Buddhist view of death without watering it down, and without falling back on exclusionary jargon. Well done Bakes. -Walter Fordham


Thinking of Zoe
The heartbreak of life cut short
Your spirit remains bright

-Jill Scott


Fresh Spirit
Dharma Dancer
Elegant Woman
Love To You
On Your Journey
Heart Breaks
As You Go

-Valerie Lorig



May you realize the fundamental nature
and attain perfect awakening.
Seize the stronghold of awareness.
The glorious copper colored mountain rests in the centre of our hearts.
There, Dorje Trollo rides his pregnant tigress.
His expression is both wrathful and playful.
May you recognize the wisdom radiance of that Enlightened mind,
so that you do not fall under the power of duality’s delusion.
Know that you are inseparable from that brilliance
and always have been.
May you awake and rest in the great expanse,
But remembering bodhicitta,
please return to us who love you
so that you may again benefit and befriend
so many beings with your confidence and joy,
your creative exuberance,
and your big bear hugs!

–your old school marm, Linda Lewis


For Zoë

No matter
Where she went
Created a container
A safe environment
One where the spirit was able to flourish
A characteristic most lovely and kind
Developed by taming
The Monkey Mind