i went to a funeral today. funerals are a difficult affair, regardless of how well you know the person who died. not only do you struggle with your own grief, but it always difficult to watch close family members and friends deal with their loss.
the person whose funeral i attended today was owen richard michael robyns, known to us as micheal robyns. i knew him from our involvement in the labour party, and michael was active in the taupo electorate for over 40 years. i'd meet him several times a year, at regional meetings. i've never known michael to miss a regional meeting or event.
he was a lovely person, polite but very witty; sharply intelligent and a stickler for detail and due process. he brought so much to our meetings - a critical analysis, good will, an ability to get things done. he was one of those people who worked in the background - he never sought political power or position. he was happy to work tirelessly for a cause, without anything in return, simply because he believed in social justice and a caring government that looks after the best interests of its people.
as i sat in the funeral, i thought about how sad it was that i knew so little about this man outside of his involvement in the labour party. i can say that i knew about his character, but i can't say that i knew about his life. this is for several reasons. mostly because i go to so many meetings, and with the range of commitments and responsibilities i have, i tend to go in, get through the business and get out as soon as i can. i don't often have the luxury to stop and chat.
and even when i do, i'm just not the sort of person who asks personal questions. perhaps because i tend to be a private person myself, i tend to respect other people's privacy. maybe to a fault. i never asked michael if he had children, and how many. i never knew what he did as a profession. i wasn't aware of his ethnicity or the fact that he wasn't born in nz. these are things i only learn about people when they volunteer that information - i certainly don't tend to ask because i class these things as none of my business.
so today i realised that i only new one dimension of him and his life. today i heard from his four children and his wife, as well as from his grandchildren and friends. i learnt about his work as a teacher of english at tokoroa high school, and the way he had inspired so many of his students. i learnt that he was born in wales, and was very proud of his welsh heritage. it was if i only knew him as a flat sheet of paper, and all this information rounded him out into a 3-dimensional figure.
i wish i'd taken the time to get to know that figure when he was alive. but we just don't have the time to get to know everyone we meet in that way. i really, really wish i'd let him know how much i'd respected him and the contribution he made; how much he and people like him have inspired me, particularly in the way that he never needed credit or adulation for all the work that he did. he didn't need it, but today he got it in spades. and i can only hope he knew how much he was valued when he was alive. i should have played a part in ensuring that happened, but i didn't. that was my mistake.