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Obituary of Gillian Mary SANDERSON

Gillian Mary Sanderson - a dear partner, family member and friend - died on the day after her 84th birthday.

Gillian had a rich, adventurous, and creative life. It began in England, where, as a child she survived the terror of air raids, bombings and miraculously recovered from a life-threatening illness.

She loved many arts from an early age, studied at the Trinity College and the Royal College of Music in London and at the Conservatory in Vienna, Austria. While still in England she taught music and worked as a music officer for the Arts Council of Great Britain.

However, her encounters with Hungarian refugees while in Austria kindled her life-long passion for social justice, so for the first of many times, she changed direction and studied social work at Oxford University.

After immigrating to Canada in 1974 Gillian held jobs as an arts administrator, social worker and counsellor. She was proud of going back to school in middle age and obtaining an M.Mus. degree from the University of Alberta in 1980.

Gillian first met indigenous North America people in Alberta and was one of a small number of non-indigenous students accepted into training programs of the Nechi Institute; using new skills, she taught and counselled in Edmonton, Slave Lake, and other northern communities. 

Buddhism had also caught her attention. Gillian practiced with a variety of groups in Alberta, and after moving to the West Coast, she took initiations from her beloved dharma teacher, Ven. Zazep Tulku Rinpoche.

Gillian moved to the Cowichan Valley, and her partner Betsy joined her there in 1992. Gillian started Soundings Consulting, offering musical therapy programs. She learned to make and play frame drums, and ran singing groups (Wild Women Sing) for women who had been told they could not sing.

She continued with draw and paint, make music, participated in Sacred Circle Dance and ritual in women’s circles. She found constant inspiration in the beauty of the natural world.

After retiring and moving with Betsy to Victoria, Gillian developed a new creative outlet:  carving fantastical beings from driftwood she found on the local beaches. She continued to strongly and outspokenly support environmental and social causes and maintained her connections with indigenous peoples and their culture; she endowed a small bursary for indigenous women studying at Camosun College.

We remember with love her zest for life, her curiosity, her playfulness, imagination, her at times wicked humor, her great love of nature and animals (especially her companion cats Pusskin, Diana and Charlie), her sincere intentions and her courage in speaking her truth. As physical incapacities made activity more difficult, Gillian opened to spiritual life and faced her inner demons. She learned more about the Great Mother Goddess of Old Europe and took great solace in Her power and compassion.

We are grateful for the generous gifts of love, loyal friendship and kindness which Gillian shared with us. We will miss her!


If you would like to make a charitable donation in Gillian's honour, the Canadian charities named in her will are:

Inter Pares (

Ecojustice Canada (

Victoria Dandelion Society (

R.A.V.E.N. (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs) (


Please search out Mary Oliver's poem "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" (House of Light, pp. 20-21) and recordings of Gustav Mahler's setting of the German poem by Friedrich Rückert performed by Kathleen Ferrier ( and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau ( An English translation of Rückert's poem is available here:



Betsy offers special thanks to Marta Lena Gassler for help with this text and the song.


A celebration of life will be held on Friday, January 10, 2020 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, at the Church of Truth, 111 Superior Street, Victoria BC.  Buffet lunch will be served, so please RSVP to or 250-592-2848


Celebration of Life

11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Friday, January 10, 2020
Victoria Church of Truth Centre for Conscious Living
111 Superior St.
Victoria , British Columbia, Canada

Please RSVP

Please RSVP to Betsy Nuse <> or 250-592-2848
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