What are you doing today?
Last week, Parliament lost Dave Allanson. Dave had worked at Parliament for 23 years; a devoted member of the security team; a trusted work colleague; a true professional.
There was no doubt that he was well respected throughout Parliament. At the funeral service there were current and former ministers; MPs, party leaders; and staff from right across the complex.
But it was the stories that told the life of a man that truly distinguished his farewell service. Cycling mates who spoke of his irrepressible energy - here was a man who had just registered for his 14th Round the Lake event at Lake Taupo?. The security team turned up in its full contingent – the power of their haka filling the church. And there were friends who had travelled the world with him in the seventies, who shared memories of their bus tour through Europe like it was yesterday.
But by far the most moving tributes came from those nearest and dearest. A letter from England recorded the memories of his next-door neighbour from childhood days in Dannevirke. She recalled how in 1954 as two seven year olds, they made every day an adventure – her perched on the handlebars of his bike while they rode the streets. They’d return home with grazed knees and huge grins; full of stories about their exploits.
The other memory was from a tearful niece, who shared the story of a day when she’d left her baby son in Dave’s care while she popped out to the shop. When she asked him if he’d mind, Dave said one word – ‘really’?
The young mum was startled – thinking perhaps her boy was too much of a handful for Uncle Dave. But it was quite the opposite – Dave was overcome with emotion that she would trust him with this most precious child.
There was one speaker at the funeral who captured it all. He talked about the service sheet containing two dates – 1947-2012 – but that the most important part was the ‘dash in between’. Life is all about what you do with the dash.
Hearing all these stories made me think about the lives we share with each other. How often do we stop and reflect about life’s lessons? What value do we place on living, on loving, on learning - as opposed to the jobs we are employed in; the roles we are known by?
For Dave, he leaves behind a wonderful legacy of laughter and inspiration. He treated everyone with respect.
He cherished his wife, Nita and his sons, Joe and Tom. He would drive his Mum to the beach and push her wheelchair to the edge of the shore, so that she could breathe the crisp sea air and almost touch the froth of the waves.
He would cut down trees for his sisters, mow their lawns, and play with the grandkids. And he was the most loyal of mates, with always a story.
None of this is exceptional. And yet the unconditional love this man gave to the world is of universal significance – it is a lesson for us all of the value of walking our talk – being the change we would like to see in our world.
It is such a tribute to Dave that over 50 years later, a little girl would still hold on to the memories of the boy-next-door with such love; or that passengers in a bus trip in 1978 had such enduring associations with the man behind the wheel.
It makes me think – what are we doing today, that will live on in the world, to make a better world for our mokopuna to inherit. How do we make every moment count? What values are we passing on the next generation? What will be the greatest contribution we make to a world we leave behind?
Or in other words – how are we ‘filling the dash’?