Marshall Rosenberg, founder of Nonviolent Communication, exited the stage on February 7, 2015, leaving this physical plane poorer for his loss. It happened the day I was traveling to the Yukon to the small community of Carcross where my native grandmother lived during the last half of her adult life. She was well loved in that community, a fiercely independent woman who was never sure of her own birthday because she was born out on the land—on her father’s trap line—and the date was never recorded. Although this was not my first trip to Carcross, it was the first time I had been invited there to teach. I was traveling back to the land of my ancestors to teach Nonviolent Communication skills to the staff of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, in a journey that comes back full circle to the day I met Marshall Rosenberg in 2003.
I didn’t hear about Marshall passing into the spirit world until 3 days after he was gone. I am so saddened by his loss. Since then, I have been flooded with reflections on the powerful impact Marshall has had on my life. Practicing Nonviolent Communication skills has deepened my spiritual journey, and yet it is not based on dogma or religion. I have been exposed to different religions in my lifetime, but Nonviolent Communication is one of the things that has enriched my life the most and enhanced my career in ways I never expected.
Leslie Williamson and family with Marshall Rosenberg at the Squamish Nation Long House in 2010
When I met Marshall he was in his 60s and by that time, he had shared Nonviolent Communication with people from some 30 odd countries around the world. I was wowed by this and inspired to share this knowledge in as many communities as I could across Canada. Marshall supported the work I was doing in native community and sincerely wanted the knowledge of NVC to reach this population, who are carrying much pain from the loss of their traditional culture and the lingering legacy of residential schools. He encouraged me to follow my vision of bringing NVC to native communities across Canada, to help heal the deep pains of the past. I have been doing so ever since, working in some of the most remote communities of Canada.
By the time Marshall passed, his teaching had taken him to 50 countries around the world. Marshall’s passion for social change was so strong that he was driven to keep going and keep sharing no matter what it took. In the early years, Marshall would travel overland to give workshops on Nonviolent Communication—The Language of the Heart, sleeping in his car before carrying on to the next place to hold a workshop because he didn’t have enough money to stay in a hotel. When he finally left this world he was in his 80s, and he along with many others had established teachers/trainers all around the world to continue the work he began. Marshall worked in countries that were not at peace but at war; he did not choose only easy places in which to travel and share this knowledge. Marshall understood that the war inside needs to stop before we as individuals can live the peace we desire in this world.
I have been blessed—and continue to be blessed—by having known Marshall. He is one of the teachers in my life that has changed my world in very profound ways. At the first training I attended where Marshall himself taught, he talked about the power of gratitude and the practice of writing in a gratitude journal every day. He encouraged me to be grateful and to express that gratitude every day. I loved the idea of a gratitude journal and have shared this tool with hundreds of people in my workshops since. An attitude of gratitude is a perfect way to raise our own vibration and set our minds in a direction of peace. We must be peace before we expect others to be peaceful or to behave in peaceful ways. Nonviolent Communication offers concrete tools that lead to internal peace and conscious awareness. One such tool is empathy; the concept of using empathy as a way to creating more peace was one I had not before heard described in the way Marshall did. Sharing empathy has created magical moments in my life and continues to create more peace within myself as I practice each day to live a life filled with joy and peace. It is a journey, and I am most grateful to Marshall and feel such appreciation each day for what Marshall shared so willingly and enthusiastically in his lifetime. “Thank you, Marshall, for gracing my life so many years ago. My life has been so blessed ever since.”
With deepest gratitude,