Finding the Right Words
Our dear friend Max Geyer passed away peacefully during the morning of 2nd August 2017 after a short period of illness. His passing, while no real shock when considered from a medical perspective, was certainly something that shook the people who loved Max. He was the kind of guy who attracted friends easily; it wasn’t hard to love Max.
He shared his time with so many people, he was understanding, curious and welcoming. Most would describe him as a lover; of life, of family and of ‘living’.
This is a short tribute to a dear friend. A friend that has had a positive impact on the life of so many people, least of all De’s and mine. As I try to find words that fit such a decent man, I know that I will fall short. As Polanyi suggests; ‘we know more than we can say‘, however, I will do my best to remember the life of a lovable character, of a friend and of a true family man. That is, the life of Max Geyer.
Max, Sylvia and a Special Family
There was nothing Max valued more than his special family, that included at its nucleus his dear wife Sylvia (or as Max affectionately called her, ‘Sylvie’), his daughters Brooke and Nicole, and their husbands Sven and Leighton. A real joy too were his five little grandchildren who he affectionately referred to as ‘life’s little vitamins‘; thus the energy that Max received when in their presence.
Max was; a husband, a father, a ‘Grampy’ and to many, a dear friend.
It is Max’s special ‘Sylvie’ though that really stole and held his heart for most of his life. When you are in the presence of these two caring people, you know that you in the midst of a loving bond that is as strong as any other. When I think of Max and Sylvie together, I’m reminded of the words of a special bloke from Kings Cross (see below) who once wrote; “when two people get married, they don’t become ‘one’, they become ‘us’.” Max and Sylvie were the epitome of this.
Max pictured here with his dear ‘Slyvie’ at a charity dinner for Fiji Kids. Fiji holds a special place in both Max and Sylvie’s heart as they have many friends in the area.
A Love of Learning, Reading…. and Playing!
I don’t know too many people who, in their late 50’s, decide to embark on a formal course of study and commence post-graduate studies at University – enter Max Geyer!
Max had a lifelong passion for learning, mostly done through the many and varied experiences of ‘living’. Max was not afraid to embrace risk when it came to learning, however commencing formal University studies at a time when most people are thinking toward retirement, now that was ‘risk in action’!
Max completed the Post-Graduate Diploma in the Social Psychology of Risk, studying under Dr Rob Long. I was fortunate to share in many of the formal learning experiences with Max; attending classes, writing essays, reading so many books and of course sharing in much conversation. I was also fortunate to be there on the day Max graduated. Max was delighted that we graduated at one of his most special places, The Wayside Chapel in Sydney’s Kings Cross.
It was a proud day for Max and ‘Sylvie’, but it would also have been for Max’s Dad, who only a few years earlier, and before he died, encouraged Max to go onto more formal studies. I remember Max telling us that he really only decided the day before he commenced this course, that he was going to do it, talk about risk! But what a risk it was; it would not be an understatement to describe it as a life changing course of study and for those of us fortunate enough to share in the learning with Max, it will be remembered forever!
Max pictured here on Graduation Day with Dr Rob Long, a proud moment for many people.
Max was also a cheeky bugger, always seeking to have fun and share in that fun with others. There are countless stories that could be shared, and I’m sure in time they will be; about how Max could really lift the mood of any gathering, with his cool (well in his mind anyway…) ‘Dad Jokes’, through a story about his many experiences (there were no shortage!) or just his infectious smile. Max loved to ‘play’ and always encouraged others to join in the fun.
Max, GabStar, James and I presented at a Social Psychology Conference in Newcastle in 2015. This photo is typical of these three fun loving people, always looking to have a laugh and share in the fun of life.
Max’s Work and Writing
Max worked in a wide range of roles including front line worker, overseer, work group leader/manager, senior manager and senior consultant. He had experience across diversified fields covering livestock management, mining, training and business process improvement, plus WH&S, HR and Quality systems auditing, design, implementation and management. He worked all across Australia with so many different people. Max was one of those who I think you could affectionately call a ‘Jack of All Trades‘.
It is in his later years of work, both during and after the study noted above, that I was able to regularly enjoy working alongside Max. As a consultant, Max was passionate about serving clients, and he made a real effort in getting to know people personally, developing relationships; not just doing a job, but helping people with their needs.
Through his study and work, Max became an avid reader and then writer, often sharing his thoughts on the Blog site of our great mate Dave Collins. There is a section of the website dedicated to Max’s writings which you can access by clicking on the image below.
Max also enjoyed a chat! It seems that there were very few people who Max would not be able to engage in conversation with. He was never short of a yarn about this (or that), his life was so full of experiences and stories. I had the privilege of sharing in many, many conversations with Max. One particularly cool one was during a video we call ‘Conversations on the Couch‘. We did this back in 2015 during the thick of our studies. You can enjoy our chat by clicking on the image below.
Sharing the Love – With Those by ‘The Wayside’
One of the great experiences of the study described above is the experiential component of the learning. For Max, I’d suggest his favourite, and certainly most memorable experiential learning, was a visit to The Wayside Chapel, which had a special place in Max’s heart.
The visit to The Wayside came early on in the ‘learning adventure‘ for Max and as part of this he was introduced to a man that would take an incredible hold of Max’s heart and provide it with much pleasure. That man is the Pastor and CEO of The Wayside, Graham Long (Rob’s brother).
We were fortunate during our study to hear Graham share some of his thoughts on life and ‘living’. Graham is a gently spoken man with a cheeky chuckle and infectious laugh. He spent around an hour with our cohort of keen students, sharing wisdom about life and The Wayside. This would be one hour that would impact Max for the rest of his life, and even into death (Graham will reside over proceedings at Max’s funeral).
You can hear for yourself this chat with Graham in this video (https://vimeo.com/97838068). If you listen closely enough, toward the end, you will hear some questions from Max. He learnt a thing or two from Graham and so many others at The Wayside over the past few years.
One of the things I loved, and will miss about Max, is his contemplation and then sharing of Graham’s weekly letter to his ‘Inner Circle‘. Each week Graham writes a short letter to supporters of The Wayside and distributes it by email and on Facebook. Every week Max would wait, keen in anticipation of the letter, and look forward to firstly reading it (usually he said, with a tear in his eye), and then thinking about a way to sum up what Graham said in a sentence or two of his own and then ‘paying it forward’. Max was such a sharing person, and each week he couldn’t wait to share Graham’s words with those he loved. Such was Max.
Max pictured here ‘getting his wings’ at Sydney’s The Wayside Chapel.
Max Geyer was a true ‘giver’ too, always thinking of others. In this picture, he is presenting a special book to Dr Rob Long that Max arranged to have signed by the US based author Karl Weick, one of Rob’s favourites. Rob was touched by the gift, I know it means so much to him and Max was just as thrilled in the giving as Rob was in the receiving.
Editor in Chief
In early 2016, I had this idea to write a book. I’d been writing Blog articles for quite a while and had amassed quite a few, so thought it would be a good idea to put these together, along with stories shared by some friends (including Max) into a book. Well, writing the articles seemed the easy task, putting a book together in a way that was at least partly comprehensible was a much bigger task.
Well established Authors have the luxury of a professional Editor. I had on the other hand, someone with the passion, the love and importantly the time of Max Geyer; Editor in Chief of Social Sensemaking. I could never repay Max for the time he spent helping me put the book together, and I know that I don’t need to. However, it goes without saying that the book would not have been created without the support, encouragement and hard work of Max.
Max and I spent months pouring over content for the book, discussing, debating and deliberating. Max was so patient and enthusiastic and his attention to detail was a great compliment to my eagerness to ‘get on with the job’. Goodness knows how many spelling (and other) mistakes would have been included if it were not for Max’s persistence and hard work. I will be forever grateful for Max’s friendship and support during this period.
It was a proud day that Max and I launched our book to the world. I remember him being excited at many steps along the way, even minor moments when we finally got our Dewey Number!
A Poem for Max
On the day that Max died, I took some time out and drove to a local beach where I sat and reflected for a little while. I’d been encouraged recently in such moments to write down words that come to mind, so I did. The result was a short poem, the words to which are included below as a final tribute to such a special bloke and friend.
A friend, a learner, a lover
Forever thinking of the other.
You now have your ‘wings’ and you are free
Max Geyer, our dear friend, in peace you will be.
A bridge you said, bought people together,
When others were in need, you’d never say never.
So many memories in which we share,
You taught us so much about how to care.
RIP our dear friend. You’ll be forever missed, but the memories we hold dear.
We Love You.