i went to a funeral today. another labour party stalwart. another man named michael. it's almost a year since i wrote about michael robyns, a lovely man who gave generously of his time and money. and today i write about michael donald hills, known to us as mike, or more commonly as mikeandmarylyn because he & his wife were so close & they did so many things together.
and again, as i did with the funeral last year, i came to realise how one-dimensional my knowledge of mike was. i knew him from the labour party and many a meeting we attended together, many an event we worked on. i knew him as a friend and a neighbour - mike & marylyn live on the same street and we would sometimes go to meetings together in an effort to carpool. i knew he was well-regarded in his career as a psychologist working at the university of waikato. i knew he was a father and grandfather, from the many trips he took to visit his grandchildren or the times when they came to stay.
but these latter things, while i knew of them, were things i didn't witness myself and so they didn't really form part of the of the picture, as it were, of the person i knew. it was more a theoretical knowledge rather than a practical one. but today, hearing from his family and friends, and from work colleagues, we got a much fuller picture of how much he meant to so many people.
i didn't know he suffered from epilepsy, although i knew he belonged to an international body that advocates for epilepsy. i hadn't realised the depth of his involvment both locally and internationally:
Frank Gouveia, Epilepsy New
Zealand’s Chief Executive said; “Dr Hills involvement
with Epilepsy New Zealand goes back to the 1970’s. Mike
was instrumental in shaping New Zealand’s provision of
epilepsy information and support services, and in 1979 he
undertook a survey on epilepsy in the Waikato area which
resulted in the initiation and development of the Field
Officer service for Epilepsy New Zealand. It is this unique
service that formed the basis of Epilepsy New Zealand’s
service delivery to people with epilepsy and the New Zealand
community, and one which we are proud to say is still used
to this day”.
At the time of his death Mike was a
current Board Member of Epilepsy New Zealand; Executive
Committee Member of the New Zealand League Against Epilepsy;
and Chair of Elections Task Force for the International
Bureau for Epilepsy.
you can get more of a sense of what he meant to the IBE by reading the book of condolences on their website. i don't think i can bear to read it today, but i know it will say things i do already know about mike. that he was someone who was always ready to work for others, he gave generously of his time & was just as happy working in the background with little recognition. he was thoughtful & very intelligent, and so was of as much value in an in-depth policy discussion as he was in organising a garage sale.
today i learnt that mike was not only a member of the council of elders, he was also the chairperson. those who knew him from that organisation spoke similarly of his generosity and his competence.
so tonight i'm going to mourn the loss of, as someone described him at the service, a good man. rest in peace, mike.