Monday, November 8, 2010

How high does the poui tree grow?

Poui tree through my window
Every year for the past few years I have been invited to be a judge at the "Facing Life" film and drama competition for secondary schools, organised by Rebirth House Drug Rehab Centre. The founder of this competition, Roger Beckles is someone I had met through a friend. Even after only meeting a few times initially, somehow he believed in, respected and admired me and always called me every year to (a) be a judge and (b) invite me to their Rebirth House Christmas party. A lovely and genuine person, always smiling. 

This year a woman called me and said "It's that time of year again. Will you be a judge for us?"

I said yes.

On the day of the competition, last Thursday, I called Roger's cellular to ask him some details on the competition. His phone kept beeping and cutting off. I eventually I gave up and headed down to the Centre of Excellence (the competition venue).

I got there and, while greeting one of the other judges, looked to the stage. There was a huge mural of a poui tree with symbols of various elements around it, threatening its blossoming and growth: drugs, alcohol, AIDS, etc. Then, to the right, there was an image of Roger smiling. At first I thought "What's that doing there?" Maybe they chose to feature his image as the founder of the event?

But the image had the quality of those often seen in obituaries. I think something leaves an image when someone leaves this life.

I turned to the other judge and said, "Where's Roger?"

The look of shock in his eyes cannot be described. "You didn't know?" he whispered.

Before Roger died unexpectedly in April 2010, he had come up with a theme for this year's Facing Life (Ten) competition:

How high does the poui tree grow?
if you cut it down, you will never know ...

These borrowed sentences from a song mean a lot, particularly if we understand just how we 'cut it down'. We abort our plans, sometimes consciously in the interest of wise decision making, but sometimes plans are aborted, without thinking, by the choices we make in the interest of having a good time.

Some of the saws we use are alcohol and other drugs, compulsive sex, gambling, gluttonous eating, immodesty, violence, other anti-social behaviour or other demonstrations of ill health. We appeal to you to LET THE TREE GROW! Whether poui, mango or sycamore, grow to your full potential and reach your destiny.

(From the competition programme)

Rest in Peace, Roger. 

1 comment:

Lynn Cohen said...

How hard that must have been for you to learn of this loss in this way.

What a wonderful person.

How to to have had the blessing of knowing that smile.

I am sad with you.