Tribute to Tessa Kersten-Zenger (1975 - 2018)
TNI mourns the terrible news that our beautiful, bubbly, funny, quirky, creative, smart and perceptive 'web gardener' Tessa Kersten-Zenger passed away on Saturday, February 17, 2018. She had turned just 43 years old the week before and was celebrating with a family weekend away when she died suddenly following an accident.
Tessa had been with TNI since 2009. She brought the unusual combination of a background in art (she held two Bachelors of Art in Art and Architecture) and a computer-savvy brain. Tessa began as a volunteer helping out in the office, and quickly demonstrated her talents. She was employed part-time the following year as the website assistant and took over full responsibility for the website from 2012.
In typical Tessa style, she changed her job title to web 'gardener' which metaphorically invoked her vision of her role--designing the garden, letting the flowers bloom and getting rid of the weeds and old wood as required. Besides managing the (re)design and development side of the website, Tessa uploaded the huge amount of content TNI generated, and also put out TNI newsletters on a regular basis, bringing thousands of visitors to her garden.
Tessa was full of joyous, creative energy, passionate about the environment, an ardent feminist (of the contemporary type she would insist), always seeking out and advocating the kind and the positive. She was such a proud and fun mum, so happy with her little family and her new home with garden. She was so loved, had so much to give, so many more things she intended to explore and create, it feels so cruel that her life was cut short so young. Our hearts break for her husband Rejo and her young daughter Vera, and we miss her more with each day that passes.
We have created a special email address firstname.lastname@example.org for those who might like to share a memory of Tessa or a message for her family, friends and colleagues.
Reading through the Tribute to Tessa, we are overwhelmed by the sincere and warm words. The nice and beautiful compliments you all make about our daughter are touching our heart.
All this will help us in our sadness. Together with Rejo and Vera, her brother Koert and all other family members we appreciate your messages and fine wishes.
Tessa’s Mom and Dad,
Leonie and Anton Kersten
Tributes to Tessa
All TNIers are deeply saddened by this awful news and I'm sure all of you who are at the office can't go past, or worse, enter, the big office where she worked without being hit again by the reality of Tessa's absence. To think she is silent and not breezing around, full of life and energy is hard enough for those of us who aren't in Amsterdam all the time--it must be just about impossible for you and I wish you all particular courage. She was perfect in her job and from what I could see was happy doing it. When I was there I always asked about Vera and it was clear she loved talking about her little girl's progress. Knowing nothing, I wrote to her this past Tuesday asking her to post a new picture on the site and for her help with another issue. Tessa was smart, savvy and cannot be said to have suffered fools gladly. I liked her a lot and now will probably never learn to tweet-I've lost my best chance.
Since we are all comrades, you will understand I mean no disrespect when I tell you that on learning the dreadful news this morning I couldn't help thinking mournfully of Praful and saying to myself that TNIers never do things like everybody else-not even die.
My deep condolences to her husband and to sweet Vera. No little person should have such a tragedy befall her.
Love to everyone, wishing us all courage.
FRSA [Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts], PhD
President of the Transnational Institute
"The one and only web gardener"
I was supposedly the person responsible for managing Tessa when she asked in a meeting for her title to be changed from web master to web gardener.
It was typical of Tessa - completely out of left field, slightly-baffling at first, but creative and brilliant and ultimately profound. I remember thinking initially, well how will anyone understand what that is, what will it look like as a signature at the end of an email. But the more we talked about it, it made sense. Who would want to be a 'master', even more so if you are a woman, when you can be a gardener? And it reflected her work as she hacked away at the weeds of our website that had grown cumbersome and clunky, bringing simplicity and beauty to it so that our content would communicate clearly.
But more than that her desire to be a 'gardener' reflected how Tessa tended her community of colleagues and friends, particularly those passionate like her for a more just world. Tessa was not the person at the forefront of movements, the people who speak at public meetings, on the media or produce quotable publications, but she was the one that nurtured the garden in which others flourished. She had an amazing knack of finding people whose voices should be heard and of thinking of art, stories or images that could animate ideas and the human spirit. She was acutely attuned to the conditions of the soil needed for growth - absorbing and at times feeling acutely the pain and suffering that afflicts our world. She dug deep to try and understand our world, our motivations and emotions, and how to cultivate those to bring out the best. Out of that she advocated passionately for stories of transformation that could inspire people to act and bring about change. Her inspiration was at the heart of two TNI publications early this year - one on counter-power and one on 50 years of resistance.
I really can't believe Tessa is gone and that she won't be there with her generous smile and infectious laugh when I am next in Amsterdam. I am going to miss her so much. I know too how much she meant to many people - most of all Rejo, Vera and her family - and grieve deeply with them that she has been taken away from us. My only consolation right now is knowing that her garden of friends and community has forever been shaped by Tessa and will flourish thanks to her for years to come. But we will never stop missing you, Tessa, walking its paths...
Dear Rejo, Vera, and TNI team,
What a loss to you all, and I would say to the world, that wonderful Tessa is no longer here to brighten our days.
I feel extremely devastated as I personally had a really special click with Tessa, despite not working closely with her, some of the things about her that have been at the top of my head all week in remembering Tessa:
- Quirky! Not many people I would use that word for but Tessa yes! Just even in the way she walked, the words she used, she was a fun presence!
- Creative, with such a unique own voice: she was one of my faves on twitter and will be missing chuckling at her comments on life, work, family. The screenshots attached attest to that… I hope you will save her entire feed as it makes her come alive for years to come.
- Having a young kid and trying to bring it up the feminist way, with so much self-mockery. This for me was very recognizable and consoling.
- The drive she had for TNI’s work and pragmatic way to go about her contribution to achieving your goals.
- And the fact we both have an (activist) IT-nerd as partner, mine being a big fan and follower of BoF and admirer of Rejo.
So it just hurts, am waking each day with a heavy heart after disturbed dreams, and my heart breaks for the TNI team, how there’s nothing anyone can do to relieve the pain of the family. I will really miss her.
I am deeply sorry for your loss.
I had the honour to meet Tessa last year at TNI and all I can remember of our brief chats was warmth, witty jokes, large smile, an engaging, practical, dynamic and welcoming person. I wish I had known her better. All my warm wishes to her TNI colleagues who must all be heartbrocken, as well my sincere condolences to her husband and little Vera of course. I can barely imagine their loss but send them all my support in these terrible moments which must feel surreal.
This is terrible. Please give our condolences to the family and also
courage for all of you in TNI.
Paul de Clerck
My deepest condolences and sorrow to you and all the colleagues of TNI for the loss of Tessa. And thank you for writing such beautiful words and the initiative to make a book for Vera. I have got to know Tessa as a colleague of my partner Niels when she was still working at the internet provider XS4ALL. The news of her death has shocked many (former) XS4ALL colleagues who are friends of Tessa and Rejo.
Nathalie van Haren
So sorry to hear this everybody! My heart
and prayers go out to all of you!
In love, sadness and solidarity.
Tom (Thomas Reifer)
This is such sad news. Tessa, with her dark curls and quirky sense of humor. How utterly tragic.
I am so sorry.
Please pass on my condolences to her family and to all in her TNI family.
Dear Fiona, dear all,
Thank you for notifying us on this terrible news.
I knew Tessa from our student days, back when she still had blue hair.
She was indeed a remarkable, sparkling, funny woman and I can well
imagine how hard this loss must be for you and the TNI colleagues.
I'll notify the people I know who knew her and also will write whatever
I still remember to the emailaddress you gave us, in the hope also that
that might be a small consolation for her family which indeed she loved
My condolences to you, the TNI colleagues and all those others in FGG
who knew and worked with her.
Anne (Anne van Schaik)
This is just so shocking and unbelievable. What a terrible mishap. I would meet her whenever I came for a Fellows meet and there she was always willing to help in various ways no matter how minor or silly my requests might be. I remember her calm presence and involvement in the discussions and her deep commitment to the causes that animate TNI. Life is sometimes very cruel. From here in Delhi Pamela kept in touch with Tessa in regard to the Praful Bidwai memorial activities and is also very saddened to hear of this. Please convey our deepest condolences to Tessa's family and to those who loved and admired her.
Achin and Pamela
Even though I did not know Tessa in person, I can imagine that you are all shocked by this terrible news. By coincidence I went to the funeral of my stepfather yesterday. He was 90 years old and even that was sad. So I can begin to imagine what a loss this is, for all of you and her family.
I wish you all the possible strength in the hours, days and years to come.
What a terrible, senseless tragedy. Tessa was such a gift to TNI... smart, funny, snarky on occasion just enough to make me laugh.
I always loved how she appropriated the notion of being a "gardner" to grow TNI's on-line presence. She was so delighted with Vera, so proud of her.
Rejo and Vera will have amazing stories to remind them of this committed, passionate woman they so loved.
So sorry for their terrible terrible loss. And sorry for all of us who will miss her.
love to all
What terrible news. I know Tessa as a bright, humorous and incredibly knowledgeable person.
Tessa showed me around at TNI during my time volunteering there. She was always incredibly patient, helpful and positively-minded. What a loss.
I meant to contact her in recent weeks but never did. I regret that. It's another reminder of how short life is.
My heart goes out to Tessa's family, friends and colleagues.
Donald (D.R.C. de Groen)
Since 2014, we've been working together with Tessa to create and improve the TNI.org website. Up until last week, where she just introduced us to two colleagues of her, because she though it was about time that others started to understand the website than herself.
Ever since we've met Tessa, she has always been very actively involved, passionately about little details and great open source matters. I can recall Tessa mocking on us for, although we're an open source company, using commercial software like Google Drive. And all those times that she brought cookies and chocolate to the office, hoping that she cloud bribe us into spending a few more hours of work.
Tessa: you'll be missed.
Managing Director at LimoenGroen
This is so very sad and hard to believe. Tessa was a wonderful person to know and work with, and she will be greatly missed.
Please give our deep condolences to her family and friends
Deeply shocked and saddened. Deepest condolences to her family.
Such a terrible shock. I keep thinking about it.
Tessa was such a lovable person as well as/because of being spiky and very much her own person.
I loved her independence of mind. It meant she always contributed in an original way to our discussions. She was also kind to, and curious about, everyone. She was many of the reasons i found it such a joy to visit and hang out at the TNI. Like all of you i will miss her deeply and strongly .
I would have wanted to be at the funeral to share our grief and to celebrate such a wonderful person who, as Fiona said, had such a potential yet fully to realise. But it would be difficult for me to come to Amsterdam on Tuesday.
I'm sure Vera and Rejo will carry her spirit with them in the way Pablo Neruda describes in that wonderful poem on how those we love live on..(i attach it as i have always found it inspiring when others I have loved died. (i'm sure most of know it but i pass it on for Reja and Vera too just incase it is of comfort at this heartbreaking time).
I feel her spirit will live on through all of us, especially those who worked with her closely and will continue to make TNI such a fun place to be. We must never forget her and what she meant for each of us.
With much love and sadness but funny , inspring memories.
How long does a man live?
So, how long does a man live, finally?
And how much does he live while he lives?
We fret, and ask so many questions –
Then when it comes to us
The answer is so simple.
A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us,
For as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,
For as long as we can ourselves live,
Holding memories in common, a man lives.
His lover will carry his man’s scent, his touch,
His children will carry the weight of his love,
One friend will carry his arguments,
Another will hum his favourite tunes,
Another will still share his terrors.
And the days will pass with baffled faces,
Then the weeks, then the months,
Then there will be a day when no question is asked,
And the knots of grief will loosen in the stomach,
And the puffed faces will calm.
And on that day he will not have ceased,
But will have ceased to be separated by death,
How long does a man live, finally?
So Many Different Lengths of Time
My deepest condolences to Rejo and Vera, and expression of sorrow to share with all of the TNI family who were deeply shocked. What a terrible turn in life, especially for a parent with a young daughter, while enjoying fun with her! At TNI she was able to show and promote another way of life and going about relationships and information sharing. She will very much missed but hopefully her example as a web gardener will inspire many to come.
Myriam Vander Stichele
Dear friends at TNI,
I was shocked when yesterday evening I learned via Twitter that your wonderful web gardener Tessa Kersten-Zenger suddenly died, last weekend.
I never met Tessa in person, but was in contact with her last summer to learn more about TNI's website redesign. I have a lively memory of a pleasant and very informative phone call with Tessa.
I grief with you over this loss and send my condolences to her husband and daughter.
Corporate Europe Observatory
Dear TNI team,
We were all devastated by the sad news of Tessa’s sudden death. Our deepest condolences to her husband, daughter and friends among which the TNI-team. We wish you all lots of strength.
I am sure she will be missed but never forgotten.
From all of us at ActionAid
The news is hard to take in. The world will not be the same without lively Tessa. She cared, dared to doubt, and was honest, whether you liked it or not. She was a wonderful person and a sweet and dear colleague I will not forget.
I think of you, Tessa, Vera, Rejo and TNI colleagues.
Love to all,
Tessa and I have been aware of each-others existence since 2014. She tweeted a shorter version of a TNI-report at me when I said we were fucked because of TTIP and ISDS.
Our next interaction was in in 2016 when some dude literally submitted a motion to kill the elderly like we do with cats and dogs to prevent that they are “used up” and poop all over the place. Tessa assured me that it just was a badly formulated motion to introduce the option to painlessly kill yourself when you had enough of everyone’s shit. Having lost friends and colleagues to let’s call it surprise, shocking suicides because suddenly your son is not only in the closet but he is dangling from a noose as well meant we quickly found common ground. Still I found myself yelling NO DEATH SQUADS (paraphrase) to Tessa which was quite ridiculous because she absolutely had no such plans.
We closed the case when we agreed that there was at least one ass-hole pleading for killing the elderly to “end their suffering” but that he wasn’t calling for mandatory death squads. Dude was still an ass-hole though.
When we decided to follow each-other I don’t quite remember, what I do know that I was constantly in Tessa’s hair about issues concerning the political party we both seemed to be a member of.
Anywhoo we started interacting more and more and we really liked each-other, like really really. And that is quite something because I have a temper that goes from stationary to 666 in one word. I’m absolutely certain that Tessa knew I go from zero to ass-hole before you can blink and I do that for the most ridiculous reasons. Tessa accepted all of that repeatedly.
And she even loved what she called my work. I do not know what kind of work I do. I blast opinions on Twitter all day, every day. If you follow less than 2000 active tweeps I will dominate your timeline. I am an organic spambot. A bag of meat and bones who tweets almost 24/7 and that earned me the friendship of Tessa. I do not understand why.
What I do understand is that Tessa was a highly intelligent woman who probably did more for all the goals that I stand for than I ever will.
Still she asked me if she could give me a Christmas present for all the work I supposedly or allegedly do. I don’t do shit but she still rewarded me by giving me a copy of Divinity: Original Sin 2. Tessa even reanimated her long dormant Steam-account for that and I was like meh, can’t you get an account a Good Old Games to give me the game that I pirated last week? Cuz I kinda want it without DRM. Tessa was like nah and she was absolutely right.
Tessa knew me through and through. Tessa and a friend invited to wining and dining with me just last week but then unstoppable bullshit happened. I’m going to blame the planet for that. Because Tessa is dead. Fuck you planet! While she could could read me to the bone and accepted my every flaw, she somehow still liked me. I adored her.
I would like to thank Tessa from the deepest of my heart for constantly fuelling the fire in me to keep sticking it to the man and above all I would like to thank you for everything. I will forever love you. And I will eternally miss you.
I love you Tessa. Thank you. I’ll never forget you.
Voor mij was Tessa iemand die naar dezelfde wereld keek, maar vaak andere dingen zag. Nooit bang om te zeggen wat ze ergens over dacht, ook als het geen populaire mening was. We hebben samen goede en slechte periodes meegemaakt en er zijn heel veel verhalen die ik zou kunnen vertellen uit de ruim 5 jaar dat we intensief hebben samengewerkt. Bij klantenservice van XS4ALL, en later op de helpdesk.
Bij klantenservice hadden we een losse tafel die tijdens de vrijdagmiddag borrel dienst deed als kroegtafel. Al vrij snel begon ze de tafel met pen, plakband en papier te verfraaien. Langzaam maar zeker groeide die tafel vol met verhalen, van onze teamgenoten, van regelmatige bezoekers en toevallige passanten. Iedereen werkte mee. Voor mij was het Tessa die deze organische samenwerking vormgaf en uiteindelijk een volledig unieke tafel liet ontstaan. Toen al was ze curator van mooie beelden en bijbehorende verhalen.
Gevoelig en begaan met mensen en dieren. Toen haar kat van het balkon gevallen was, was ze ontroostbaar. Een onmisbaar deel van haar toen-gezin was haar ontvallen. Hoe immens triest dat Tessa op 43 jarige leeftijd haar eigen gezin is ontvallen. Ik ga je missen cosmic twin.
At the TNI office we’re already missing Tessa more than we’d ever imagined. In my case, I miss our brief but frequent exchanges, in particular our disagreements. Tessa and I shared a passion for images and design, but we often disagreed about the look of our website, our logo, our briefing papers, etc. I loved to talk with somebody who would forced me to explain why and how I didn’t like something and engage in a conversation based on arguments, not just mere opinions. On the other hand, I discovered that we had a lot of musical, artistic and cinematic coincidences, with a common appreciation for particular bands (Nine Inch Nails, for instance), muralists (Mona Caron, for example) or movie directors.
I will also miss her enthusiasm and professionalism at work. More than once I presented her with urgent requests, ranging from applications for ISBN numbers for TNI publications to an article to be uploaded on our website. Tessa would initially pretend to be grumpy (for good reasons, as she was too often overworked), but I knew that in a few minutes our requests would be granted.
This is not the first time we face a tragedy in the TNI family. Two years ago we lost another comrade and friend, our dear Praful Bidwai. Those were very tough days for all of us, but Tessa somehow overcame the grief and went straight to work, including many hours dedicated to liaise with Praful’s relatives and friends far away in India. What Tessa wrote about Praful at that time now seems very appropriate for her today: “I still not actually believe this is real. The realisation comes with little shocks that this intelligent person with vivid eyes is not among us anymore”.
Ik las zojuist het schokkende bericht van Tessa’s overlijden. Wat een intens verdrietig nieuws en groot verlies voor jullie. Ik wens jullie: collega’s, vrienden en natuurlijk ook de familie veel sterkte bij dit groot gemis. En hoop dat haar gepassioneerde, creatieve en vrolijke energie blijft voortleven binnen TNI!
I am grateful to have shared fun and funny moments with Tessa. Everytime I went to the TNI office Tessa would greet me with a smile and many questions and opinions about my work, her work, Amsterdam Noord, web gardening and vegetable gardening, neighborhood initiatives and food coops. When I was facilitating meetings at TNI, Tessa would pass me little notes to encourage me, smiley faces and comments about herding cats. She was a source of great questions and great ideas.
Much love to Tessa's family and to the TNI family.
We are really saddened to know about the sudden demise of Tessa.
Tessa was a lovable and wonderful person for all of us.
Please accept our heartfelt condolences for this huge loss.
TNI Myanmar Team did good deeds for Tessa by donating 100,000 kyats at
Orphan Nursery Center at Yangon in Myanmar on 23rd Feb 2018.
(Please have a look the attachments.)
She will live in our memories forever and
our spirit is present too on Tuesday.
May she rest in peace.
Behalf of TNI Myanmar Team
To our TNI colleagues in Amsterdam and Tessa's family, I would like to provide further information on the purpose of this donation. We have a belief (especially Buddhist's belief, and for TNI Myanmar team a spiritual belief) that a good deed in dedication of the deceased person will facilitate in transforming her soul/spirit to a better being in the next life. So we wish that this little deed would help Tessa's soul rest in peace where there is no more worries, pain or sufferings.
We know that Tessa loves children, we remember that she was a very caring and loving mother. On her way to Myanmar two years ago, she cried missing her little daughter. We are sure her daughter Vera will always remember her love. That's why we did this donation to the orphanage where these children need loving kindness and care.
As Phwe Phyu and other colleagues mentioned, Tessa will remain in our hearts and memories.
Pann Ei on behalf of TNI Myanmar Team
Dear family of Tessa,
We didn’t know each other very well but have been exchanging on Twitter.
I was shocked to hear the sad news.
Hope she shall rest in peace.
My sincere condolences and wishing you good memories and strength!
Researcher ActionAid (part of Fair Green and Global alliance of which TNI is also part)
For Tessa's daughter Vera and partner Rejo...
And for her Parents and extended family
Tessa – your passing so tragically and unexpectedly has left me searching for words...to share with your loved ones in their grieving.
On one hand, Maya Angelou - the black woman activist writer comes to mind
Not the Breaths
Your Breath Away!
And in your life Tessa you created many such moments!
And on the other, words come from Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet naming his encounter with death.
"Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light"
We will remember the light you have been in our lives.
And we wish your light will always shine for loved ones and friends.
Economic Justice Programme/Corporate Power
Dear Fiona and all,
I've just read the news about Tessa and it hits hard. Very hard. My condolences to you and everyone at TNI. I know she will be severely missed. So many memories pop up as I am writing this.
For Rejo and Vera, (and parents, family and friends)
I am so sorry to hear about Tessa's passing, unbelievable. My deepest condolences.
Every time I came to TNI and Tessa was sitting there behind her desk, listening to music (or not) we had a chat about for example; the archive, art, the new TNI logo, love, a new game she played, something unbelievable that was happening in the world, etc. A chat about everything and nothing.
Some memories; one day we went to the Stedelijk Museum not to look at art but to participate in a workshop of 'fill Wikipedia with lemma's of awesome women'. So we did. Or at least Tessa did. My techskills and patience dried up fast.
I had never heard of Georgia O'Keeffe until Tessa showed me her work as we were talking about female artists. Right now I find it hard to believe there was a time I did not know O'Keeffe. I loved how Tessa loved art and could show me new works.
She taught me how to work with oil paint and how to make a framework. Did not accept my stubbornness and demanded to put my pencil down now and then; 'afstand nemen' and then look closer. You can clean oil paint brushes with ordinary soap (aware of everything as she always was). The guild I could feel in recent times when I didn't.
Every time I saw Tessa there were new stories to listen to, subjects to talk about and for me to realize that things could be looked at differently. And also done differently. We have last seen each other biking though the Vondelpark. That is a harsh reality.
I am grateful for her generosity, warmth and the time we have spent together. I wish you all the best, strength and love.
Dear Rejo and all
My deepest condolences for this heartbreaking loss.
I struggle to find comforting words to express my empathy for what you go through.
Many memories have come up since and I will remember Tessa as a very funny and kind colleague. Over the 5 years I knew her as a colleague, I have seen how she put all of herself into making our institute a better place, constantly taking meaningful initiatives to help not only our institute grow, but also all of us as human beings or activists. Her atypical and very committed approach to her work made her such a source of inspiration. She has never shielded from speaking up, she was very heart spoken and for that I looked up to her.
I will sorely miss her
Lots of love and strength to you all,
Tim (Timothé Feodoroff)
Dearest Rejo and Vera,
Like so many people that I am sure you have heard from, the absolute shock over the loss of someone as uplifting, delightful, creative, beautiful, sensitive and as good as a person can be as Tessa is impossible to quantify.
But like all shockwaves, once it hits you, and you succumb, you are forced to ride the ups and downs until -- eventually -- you are left in a calmer and more reflective place.
That will take time. A lot of time. And that is okay.
Working with Tessa at XS4ALL was, for me, an absolute joy.
The work we did was sometimes quite depressing, often quite frustrating, but Tessa knew how to manage that and do so not just with a smile on her face, but, helping bring one to everyone else's face as well.
Part of how Tessa managed this, I feel, was in her embracing the many facets of her life, of her creativity, of her passions -- not just the work in the office that thrilled her, but, everything else in the world.
Especially her art.
And that's part of what I wanted to share with the two of you.
Now, I am sure you both know what a fantastic artist Tessa was - but I had the incredible honour of receiving a gift from her, back in 2003, in the form of an original portrait of my dog, and I wanted to share a picture of that portrait with you.
My dog's name was Tessa.
You can imagine the look on her face. She grinned a quirky grin, raised an eyebrow, looked at me and through her smile just said: Oh. Okay!
We quickly became close colleagues and friends.
Shortly thereafter, Person Tessa met Dog Tessa and they too became friends.
Person Tessa would come over to my flat in Amsterdam, we'd drink rode wijn (one or two bottles) and laugh at the world, our work, and just talk about everything from politics to art to my dog's long and fluffy tail.
It was during these visits that I have some of my best and happiest memories of (Person) Tessa - every time I would call out her name, to ask if she wanted another glass of wine, or whatever, both her head, and my dog's head, would swivel around and stare at me.
And every single time, I would laugh.
Four eyes, all staring at me expectantly. Both heads responding to "Hey, Tessa..."
I won't deny, this became all the more amusing after several glasses of wijn.
So when Tessa painted Tessa, as a gift for me and to commemorate our laughs together, well, it was one of the most special gifts that I have ever received.
I still have it with me today, here in Melbourne, Australia, where I've been living since I moved out of Amsterdam. I've attached a picture of it to this email.
You'll notice there's a banana in the picture - that's because my dog loved to eat a banana as a treat. Whenever Tessa would come over she'd feed my dog a banana; it only seemed right that the portrait would have this as well!
Rejo, there simply aren't words enough (in any language) for what I'd want to say; love is love. We know it when we have it, and when tragedy strikes, well, you know that too. Talk, share, grieve, eventually heal, and, more than anything, love your daughter. You are not alone, you will never be alone, and I am sure you are surrounded by people who will do anything at all for the two of you. Let them.
Vera, your mother was one of the kindest and most creative people I've ever worked with or known - as you get older, listen to the stories from those that knew her well, and know that there is no doubt in any of our minds that her love for you would have been infinite. If you can, look at her art, see the world the way she saw it, and I think you'll grow up with your own heart full of smiles, just as your mother had.
Scott A. McIntyre
For Tessa, for her family, for TNI family, for all of us...
Un simple abrazo nos enternece el corazón;
nos da la bienvenida y nos hace más llevadera la vida.
Un abrazo es una forma de compartir alegrías
así como también los momentos tristes que se nos presentan.
Es tan solo una manera de decir a nuestros amigos
que los queremos y que nos preocupamos uno por el otro
porque los abrazos fueron hechos para darlos a quienes queremos.
El abrazo es algo grandioso.
Es la manera perfecta para demostrar el amor que sentimos
cuando no conseguimos la palabra justa.
Es maravilloso porque tan sólo un abrazo dado con mucho cariño,
hace sentir bien a quien se lo damos, sin importar el lugar ni el idioma
porque siempre es entendido.
Por estas razones y por muchas más...
hoy te envío mi más cálido abrazo.
I have been thinking so much about you these last days. And about Rejo and Vera, and your wider family, and our friends and colleagues at TNI, and all your friends and close ones. About death and how fragile life can be. I have been remembering all the good moments we had together. The half smiles. The open laughters. The notes during meetings. Your passion for everything you did. Your commitment to TNI and its values to make this a better world. How you liked art and snappy jokes. And the colourful kilt on your chair at the office. And those funny notebooks with never-ending 'to do' lists. Your postits. Your technical tips not to mess with the website. How I admired you for being so genuinely you. Your courage to say what you thought. Your curiosity for the world. Your tenderness. Your grumpiness (but the nice kind of grumpiness: 'Ok, I will upload it for you if you bribe me with some chocolate'). That afternoon we spent together designing funny badges. That other day playing ping pong. The bike ride across Rembrandt park. Your proud mummy anecdotes. The full uncensored account of your childbirth. How you always welcomed us in your home. Your beautiful garden. The 'heart overturn' in a large poster. That note you once wrote for me ('Bea: you too can say 'no') and that I had on top of my desk for years. Your creativity. Your challenging questions. Your drive to try to think out of the box. Your generosity. Our talks about permaculture and moles, and open source, and gender stereotypes, and anything and everything. The calendula seeds I promised to bring you next time. The stokroos (van de straat) seeds that you gave me last time. How sad and unfair it feels that you are not here anymore. How I --all of us-- will miss you. How you will always live on us, who had the privilege of knowing you.
And I thought I would make a special card for you, something with flowers. Here's a picture. I hope you like it. I already miss you.
Lieve Vera en Rejo,
Het is ongelofelijk dat Tessa er niet meer is. Juist Tessa die zo vol bruisend leven zat. Ik heb veel aan haar gedacht de afgelopen dagen. Met verdriet in m’n hart, maar ook met heel veel vrolijke herinneringen. We waren teamgenoten bij de klantenservice van XS4ALL. Collega’s en vrienden, in een team dat veel met elkaar meemaakte en veel met elkaar optrok. Ons team moest de moeilijke problemen en de moeilijke klanten behandelen en daardoor liepen de emoties soms hoog op. Dat schiep een sterke band. We bliezen stoom af op op onze afdelingsborrels die al snel legendarische status kregen, binnen het hele bedrijf en soms daarbuiten.
Tessa had een centrale rol in het team. Omdat ze met haar sprankelende, soms explosieve persoonlijkheid vaak het middelpunt van de aandacht was, maar ook omdat ze met haar creativiteit en eigenzinnigheid de rest vaak aan het denken zette. Ons uitnodigde om dingen anders te bekijken. Zo werd het werk leuker, het leven leuker. We hebben erg veel plezier gehad, met Tessa kon je enorm lachen. En ze kon bloedserieus en fel zijn over onderwerpen die ze zich aantrok, over onrecht dat bestreden moest worden en idealen die ze uitdroeg. Tessa gaf ons team kleur, veel kleur. Ze heeft een diepe indruk op mij gemaakt, ik zal haar missen.
Niels (Niels Huijbregts)
Tessa welcomed me to TNI and helped me find my way. Over the last two years we worked together side-by-side, literally and figuratively.
Sometimes you meet someone and you feel you have met them before. Tessa reminded me of many friends I have known at other times in my life. Her interest in science fiction, fantasy and the works of authors like Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett reminded me of one friend. Her fiercely compassionate politics reminded me of another, and her irreverent sense of humour another.
We shared achievements and disappointments, meals and musings, memories and inspiration. She helped me to understand the perils of big data and the urgency of better protections for online privacy. It's never easy to name the moment that you start to consider someone a friend, but somewhere among our daily conversations I began to cherish Tessa's advice, insights and support. I felt privileged when she would turn to me for counsel or to share a laugh.
She devoured news and twitter trends. She greeted me most mornings with a critique of some event or finding in the world. I remember the morning after Prince died, she spent the day playing his greatest hits. She didn't seem to notice as she absently sang Raspberry Beret from start to finish, demonstrating hitherto unknown talents as a singer.
Tessa was full of energy. She approached her work with passion and an unflagging sense of duty. Few people are as invested in their work as she was. She approached her work with creative dedication. Her honesty made her easy to work with and to be around. Even when we disagreed, we understood each other and always reconciled quickly.
I'll remember her presence, her unique perspectives, her creativity and her generosity. I'll remember the many kind words we exchanged. Above all, I'll remember that she made me laugh every single day.
She was a real comrade - decent, true and kind.
One day your Dad will show you this!
I knew your Mum for the last few years when I came to visit TNI. We always talked about you- I had young children too! We swapped lots stories and I followed Tessa's deep joy and amusement at what you do, what you wouldn't do (!) what you think and the amazing and the inexpressible joy you brought - basically all the thrills of being a parent ! I know that your existence was an extraordinary experience for your Mum.
At TNI Tessa was feisty and fun; a challenger and creator! Questioning and ever hopeful for the change we want to make and see in the world around us, starting with our conversations and relationship at home at TNI.
I, like so many people who knew your Mum, cannot bear or believe what has happened. I lost my Mum when I was too, too young like you. I missed knowing her as an adult myself but many will help you- as people helped me- to know more about her as she was loved and treasured by many. And, she will be with you and you are here because of her.
With my love
It felt surreal, and it still does. When I received the message asking me to call back I expected something of the like. Hearing it was Tessa, still every time it hits me.
Tessa was pretty much the second person I met at TNI and she made me feel at home. Her quirky, geeky open and direct ways. We shared some common circles in IT and interests, we ended up chatting quite a bit, some moments more than we probably should. Comms was always gezellig with her around, even when she got a bit more of her focus together. Plenty of moments to chat, discuss or just spout about one thing of another. After her pregnancy "teasing" with showing baby pictures, I never minded, she did have a lovely kid and it was great seeing her being such a proud mum. She shone when she had a videochat with vera, often enough had stories to tell, plans and worries about her future. Proud and caring. She cared about a lot of things and people though, rejo and vera especially though, it was beautiful to see. She tried to live by her standards as best she could, practise what you preach. There was always space for good hearted differences of opinion, but she was and is an inspiration. I will miss her dearly.
I sadly missed the funeral, but there was literally a world in between, rebooking my flight wasn't an option. I wish everyone the best of support and memories of Tessa. Funerals to me are a way of collecting memories, bits of the core of a person. So thanks everyone for sharing their bits here. Whenever someone dear to me dies, I try to take a bit of what they are, what I admired in them with me. Give that element a bit more focus in me. That way, they do not seem completely lost, but living on in the people they have touched.
Tessa, your care, pride and devotion have been and will be a lasting inspiration for me. Thank you for the time that I got to spent with you while you where there.
I know you had plans, hopes and such like any parent with your daughter and she got only so little time to spent with you. I hope all the memories of you that last will make her proud of you and I am sure you would be proud of her as you've always been.
Much love and peace I will miss you,
Dear TNI people,
I just read on Facebook the terrible news of the death of Tessa. My first reaction was to think I was reading poorly. How is Tessa going to die! So young! Someone who was pure life! Two years ago I saw her for the last time at TNI, but I never forgot her laughter, her love for her little daughter, her witty comments about everything. What an enormous sadness I feel. I imagine how you will be in the office.
I send you a big hug of condolences.
I just heard about Tessa - I am shocked and imagine you all should be even more. We shared few months at TNI: I say few because she was pregnant with Vera. I remember her smiling face, so proud whenever she was talking about the life she was carrying inside her. I hug you all in these days of mourning and sorrow.
I am so saddened and shocked by this news. My heart breaks at the news, and goes out to you Rejo and your daughter. Last time I saw you all, at Embercombe, Tessa was pregnant. I didn’t know you super well, but I really admired and liked a lot you both, you have been a rare and beautiful couple in my eyes, and have shined as individuals, beautiful together. I don’t know how this has come about, but my heart goes out to you.
Bye bye Tessa. Can’t believe the world has lost you so young. You were a bright star, and surely shine on for so many.
Love, always, from Dan, who you knew from Embercombe
Toen ik begon bij TNI was jij degene die mij wegwijs maakte. Je leidde me rond in het gebouw en de ongeschreven regels. Je zat tegenover mij en we hadden direct een klik. Ik denk dat we elkaar in elkaar herkenden. Beiden hebben we het beste met onze planeet voor. En beiden konden we ons uitvoerig verbazen over hoe mensen zo onnadenkend met die planeet kunnen omgaan. Je sprak je een keer uit dat jij mij bewonderde in hoe ik op een vriendelijk manier mensen bewuster kon maken. Jij vond jezelf vaak te fel en je wilde dat wat anders doen. Maar juist die felheid maakte jou Tessa.
Vooral de nieuwsgierigheid naar alles om ons heen verbond ons. En beiden wisten en weten we eigenlijk ook best veel van dat alles. En daar konden we over blijven praten. Ook mijn liefde voor de filosofie, kon ik met jou delen. We verwonderden ons ook dat zo weinig vrouwelijke filosofen werden aangehaald en maakten ons daar druk over. Mede jouw collegialiteit en gesprekken hielden me wat langer bij TNI. Ik ben vorig jaar in april weggegaan en we zouden elkaar nog gaan zien. We hadden contact. Bij jou was een hoop gebeurd en mijn leven werd op z'n kop gegooid door borstkanker.
We zouden elkaar binnenkort zien.... dat wederzien was er wel, maar helaas pas op jouw uitvaart. Ik hoop dat je rust hebt gevonden. Ik wens jouw man en lieve dochter heel veel sterkte. Lieve Vera, jouw moeder was ontzettend trots op jou. Ze sprak vaak over je en dan gebeurde er iets met haar gelaat. Heel mooi om te zien. Ook jouw kunstwerkjes liet ze zien aan mij.
Lieve Tessa, ik glimlach dat je er was. Dikke kus, Brigitte
It was a big shock and it is beyond believe. She is a very special 'mensenkind' who is very loved and admired for her sharp mind as well. I loved to play 'idea - table tennis' with her about the issues of the world and feminisme.
Condolences for this terrible loss.
Lots of love,
Tessa was warm and welcoming, always engaged, always helpful and creative. She had a great sense of humour, but also a fundamental groundedness. I will miss her deeply from afar, but am sure that for her daily colleagues and family, there must be a fatal and continuing absence that will be hard to heal. I send solidarity and love.
David Fig, Johannesburg
Beste Rejo, Vera, en TNI team
In het najaar van 2014 heb ik Tessa leren kennen bij TNI. In deze tijd was ik werkeloos en was op zoek naar vrijwilligers werk dat betrekking had tot mijn grafische verleden. TNI was op zoek naar iemand die de webmaster kon assisteren om de website up-to-date te houden. Mijn sollicitatie gesprek had ik met Tessa. Zij was de webgardener (zoals zij zich graag noemde). Het was een positief gesprek en ben door haar aangenomen om haar te helpen. Tot eind 2015 heb ik met Tessa mogen samen werken om de (nieuwe) website bij te houden en ik werd gevraagd of ik mijn technische skills wilde gebruiken voor de nieuwe huisstijl van TNI.
Ik heb haar leren kennen als een warm, liefdevol, vrolijk mens maar ook ben beetje gek op een positieve manier en ze had veel humor, kortom een prachtig mooi mens. Een van de dingen die ik mij herinner is dat ze een glazen pot op haar bureau had staan. Bij elke vloek die ze zei stopte ze geld in het potje. Op deze manier wilde ze minder gaan vloeken en zo ook voorkomen dat haar dochter lelijke woorden ging leren.
Ze was super trots op haar Vera. Als zij over haar dochter sprak dan begon Tessa nog meer te stralen dan dat ze al van nature deed. Haar dochter Vera en haar man Rejo betekende veel voor haar.
In 2016 kon ik een opleiding Handhaver volgen met een baangarantie. Na 2,5 jaar werkeloos te zijn geweest heb ik dit aangepakt. Mijn werk bij TNI kon ik hierdoor niet langer voortzetten en heb ik TNI verlaten. Dit betekende ook dat de goede samenwerking met Tessa tot een einde kwam.
Tessa was in 2015 verhuist naar Amsterdam Noord. Hier ben ik opgegroeid en woon daar nog steeds. Samen met andere collega’s heb ik nog geholpen met de verhuizing. In het begin hield ik nog contact met haar. Maar door mijn onregelmatige werktijden en ook bijna altijd werken in het weekend ging mijn sociale leven sterk naar beneden. Hierdoor verwaterde ook mijn contact met Tessa.
Vandaag (14 oktober 2018) moest ik toevallig weer aan Tessa denken. Ik wilde toen eigenlijk haar een berichtje sturen om te weten hoe het met haar was. Voordat ik dit ging doen heb ik de TNI website bezocht om haar email adres te achterhalen. Op de TNI website kwam ik het bericht “Tribute to Tessa Kersten” tegen. Ik las het bericht en was erg geschokt om te lezen dat zij niet meer onder ons is. Ondanks dat het al 8 maanden geleden is dat Tessa van jullie weg viel wil ik bij deze al haar TNI-collega's veel sterkte toewensen. Ook mijn oprechte condoleances aan haar man en kleine Vera natuurlijk. Ik kan me hun verlies nauwelijks voorstellen, maar stuur ze al mijn steun op deze vreselijke momenten die onwerkelijk moeten aanvoelen.