Last weekend a friend and "next town neighbour" died very suddenly. He hadn't reached his 60th birthday. He was a local chief, well respected across the various iwi in this region. The Maori use the word "mana" a lot to denote respect and influence. This friend had a lot of mana, both with his people and with politicians and the church. He was also a key figure for negotiating outstanding Treaty settlements.
But all these "worldy" attributes were not what made him great in the eyes of most. It was his humour, compassion, aroha (love) and the hard work he put into the community he served, and for every committee he sat on and group he associated with. He was wise and had integrity. He was a family man who with his wonderful wife raised some amazing kids.
The space these kind of men leave in the Maori community is large. Role models in any culture are not easy to come by. For the Maori people they count men of God and mana to be invaluable. I am sad because although I don't believe anyone is irreplaceable, in many respects this man will be.
He now lies in a grave under a beautiful tree in the grounds of the Maori Cathedral, Rangiatea. I stood on a hill to watch the mourners leave the cathedral and come and say their goodbyes. In the cathedral and outside, I counted over 400. They had come from all over NZ, and islands in the Pacific sent Bishops as their representatives.