Last Tuesday I was drinking coffee with Rod, in Jonkoping, talking about the presentation we were due to give the next day. My phone rang and I got the call that I knew was coming soon but still not expecting. The message was that my friend and colleague Max had died.
Max was prepared for the end of his life, more than prepared, he faced it head on. He had cancer for the last two years. We had had many conversations (electronic – our favourite kind) about life and death, about contributions and appreciations, and about what needed to be said and done for a good death. We said what we wanted to say to each other – and I asked for and got my ‘legacy instructions’. Max’s legacy is broad and deep. Before he died we talked about his legacy to me – what I have learned from him, and how he changed how I work. Max was someone I trusted with the sides of me I am not proud of. When my anger tipped into being mean he would gently but clearly chastise me. I learned from him by watching how he addressed situations where he wanted something strongly, for example helping the Board think about international contributions. He was a skilled negotiator, determined and clear without ever being aggressive. He lived generously and wisely. I have not heard his dry one-liners for some time now and I learned from his funeral that his sense of rhythm whist dancing was something to behold.
His legacy extends beyond the love he had for his family, friends and colleagues. He made contributions to the person-centred practices community and he shared what he was thinking and learning in his influential blogs. Max led work on a person-centred approach to exploring conflict and was the main architect of a person-centred approach to risk. You will read more about that soon (I have a legacy task to him here). He was one of the founders of Community Circles, but more than that – he started the conversations that made it happen. His most recent contribution was in thinking about one-page profiles at end of life.
We had planned a twitchat with colleagues on Wednesday 2nd March, two days after Max had died. The family wanted us to continue and I know that is what Max would have wanted, so we tweeted and talked about end of life and included exploring one-page profiles internationally. #maxeolc – Sarah’s idea, stands for maximising the impact of end of life care – to us it also captures Max’s contribution here.
I would like to publicly commit to my legacy instructions. His tone when we talked about it what that they were ‘suggestions’, and I welcomed them. Max was as ambitious in death as he was in life!
Here they are:
To simplify and revisit the person-centred approach to risk
To take forward one-page profiles at end of life
For Community Circles to have an impact in the lives of thousands of people.
I will do an annual blog – my legacy report to Max – on how we are doing.
I saw other areas of Max’s life through Facebook – Preston Bus station was often featured and always evident was his commitment to social justice. In January he posted a picture with Michael Smull, someone who both Max and I would describe as a mentor. Michael travelled from Nebraska, changing four commitments to be at Max’s funeral. Gill picked Michael up from the airport, and we quietly worried whether the snow would impede us getting to the crematorium on time. The one-page profiles, that were mentioned at Max’s funeral, have their roots in the work that Michael started, in looking at separating what it important to and important for someone.
Max’s life and death have had an impact on me and my work. I feel very grateful to have known him, and I will be one of many people to ensure that his legacy continues.