Max and legacy instructions

IMG_4167Last 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.


2 Comments, RSS

  1. Maria March 7, 2016 @ 8:54 am

    My wonderful dad died a couple of weeks ago after being diagnosed with dementia over 8 years ago. Working with you Helen over the last months on EoL helped me to make sure that dad’s wishes for the end of his life were put in place. We didn’t discuss legacy, but i know what he would have wanted and need to think about how we as a family deliver.

    I also have many questions and thoughts, not for now… think about…

  2. rosemarytrustam March 7, 2016 @ 9:59 am

    Noone who knew Max would have doubted his absolute commitment to the values with which he worked. At our last Preston LD Forum not knowing how near Max was to dying but missing his steady wisdom and aware his health had deteriorated, people wanted to send him our thoughts. He has had such an impact and we are all so sad that he’s gone although what he leaves behind ofcourse won’t die in the memories and deeds of all of us who knew him. I personally so admired his willingness to share his journey with cancer, but then this was so typical of a man who was totally generous with himself. But we will miss you and your writings Max

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