Last Saturday, I was attending a public speaking event and during the break I wanted to check something on Facebook. Scrolling down the page, I saw a picture Grainne Conole posted where she was with Georges Siemens and Erik Duval. I had not seen the comments and the picture had all of them smiling so I smiled thinking “what a great picture with great minds” and went on with formulating “musical vibes from Bonn” in my head when I suddenly paid attention to what the comments said. I left the page in shock and immediately searched on Twitter where the few tweets just confirmed the sad news. My tears made blurred my sight and I understood that Erik has peacefully left this world.
A few weeks ago, I decided to write the first post of this year 2016 “Recalling the messy interview” dedicated to Erik who always found the time and the energy to comment on my posts, to share them and to encourage me to carry on writing even if at times it feels difficult.
I first met Erik at a conference in Leuven back in 2009 where he was one of the keynote speakers and during the break I went up to him and introduced myself “Chahira Nouira” which did not ring a bell for him until I said ” Cosmocat on Twitter” and while handing my business card he kindly declined it and said ” I know who you are! I am not good with business cards anyway, I can never find them again”
A few years later I finally dared asking Erik for an interview about what inspired him at a workshop he spoke at and the messy interview was born! I remember that I was a little bit embarrassed because I felt that my question on whether universities are ready to adopt and adapt to technological change was not the best but Erik gave me more than an answer: he gave me the possibility to make the best transition ever and then talked about “Celebrating the messiness of life!”
That evening all participants of the workshop were invited for dinner. I was inspired by the interview earlier and thought I would sing and create some musical chaos. Out of the blue, when no one was prepared for it, I started singing “A change is gonna come” I did not make it too far and stopped at the beginning of the second verse because back then I was not so comfortable with creating chaos but also because I had a realization. Until that point Erik and I agreed to disagree on who sang the best version ever of “A change is gonna come”. In some of our exchanges on music on different channels he confirmed it was the one and only Sam Cooke. I could not change my mind and loved Otis Redding´s version. Everyone thought I was over with the singing and clapped which saved me form my second embarrassment that day. What actually happened is I for the first time realized how amazing the song and the lyrics are and singing it in presence of the Science Rockstar was a privilege.
Erik was a big music fan and knowledgeable about so many styles. We would talk about his passion and how important that is in his family. When I spoke about some of my music gigs he always wished me the best.
When Erik started the battle against cancer I would from time to time send “musical vibes and wishes”. Talking about wishes, Erik would wish you a happy birthday on the first day of a new starting year! No, it´s never too late for wishes, just think about it differently!
The few past days so many people have been writing beautiful things about Erik and I could not help but crying reading these wonderful tributes to a great person he was and will be forever in the hearts of so many people around the globe and the hearts of his family. I never met Erik´s family but heard a lot about them and I wish his wife and his daughters a lot of strength.
Thank you Erik for your vision, your trust in people and for teaching me something about celebrating the messiness of life!