Like so many others, I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Michael Green in a fatal accident in Saskatchewan earlier this week. He was a gift, really, taken away too soon and so suddenly. Although Michael and I were friends for 20 years, we never had the opportunity to work together. We had been meeting with a producer on a rather ambitious project, and had high hopes for creating a show for 2017 together, but now, alas, that will never be.
There were three others who also lost their lives in this terrible accident: Michele Sereda, who was an old friend and even former neighbour from Regina; Blackfoot Elder and film maker Narcisse Blood — I know it was my great loss not to have met such a great man; and finally, Lacy Morin-Desjarlais, a Saulteux artist from Saskatchewan. To all of the friends, family and colleagues left to mourn the untimely passing of these four beautiful souls, I offer my heart-felt condolences and most sincere sympathy.
Now, it wouldn’t fall to me to write any kind of official tribute for Michael. As friendly as we were for so long, there are many other who knew him better and are far more qualified to talk about his dazzling life and many, many accomplishments.
However, at the spontaneous gathering held at the Big Secret Theatre on Wednesday, I kept thinking of a story of his that to me says so much about the kind of man he was, and that’s what I’m here to share.
Here’s how it went down . . .
A couple of years ago, on a warm summer’s evening, a few of us, including Johanne Deleeuw, Tim Williams, Kate Newby, Cam Ascroft, a few others and myself had gathered at the Auburn Saloon with the express purpose of drinking some beers and generally shooting the shit. After we had been there for an hour or so, Michael wandered in, got himself a drink and joined us.
He told us that a couple of nights earlier, he had been sitting in his back yard with a friend, smoking a joint and having a couple of drinks when suddenly, out of nowhere, a police helicopter flew in, hovering directly overhead, making a hell of a racket and generally scaring the hell out of them.
If that weren’t bad enough, after a minute or so, it turned on its powerful spot light and shone it right into Michael’s little yard, illuminating him and his friend in a stark and very bright, even blinding, light.
I don’t know if it’s on account of my own tendency to suffer from rather intense feelings of paranoia whenever I smoke up, but if that had happened to me, I’m sure I would have taken refuge inside my house, turned out all the lights and probably hidden under my couch.
But not so with Michael Green. Once he had sized up the situation and was reasonably sure he was not being abducted by space aliens, he picked up his phone, dialed 911, and when they answered, yelled, “I’M THE GUY IN THE LIGHT!”
After an intense conversation with the operator, he was actually patched through to the officer in the helicopter, to whom he repeated, “I’M THE GUY IN THE LIGHT!” Adding, “WHY THE HELL ARE YOU SHINING YOUR LIGHT IN MY YARD?! I’M TRYING TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH MY FRIEND! SHUT IT OFF!”
Amazingly, they did just that, they turned off their light and flew away.
Michael had us all in stitches telling that story, and ever since I heard him tell it, I always thought it said so much about him:
“I’M THE GUY IN THE LIGHT!”
It’s so fitting on one hand, and yet, those of us who knew him would surely suggest he wasn’t, after all, the guy in the light. He was, in fact, the light itself. The source.
He radiated a pure, dazzling, multi-coloured light that shone on all of us who were fortunate enough to know him. It shone on audiences of One Yellow Rabbit performances and the High Performance Rodeo for the better part of three decades. It shone all throughout the City of Calgary at hundreds of events during Calgary 2012. Most recently, it shone on the lives and illuminated the stories of our First Nations People who have been shrouded in darkness far too long.
In fact, that’s why he was in Saskatchewan in the first place, to explore the possibility of creating “Making Treaty 4” along the lines of “Making Treaty 7” which he helped produce here in Alberta.
Such a bright light he was. For many of us, the world became a little darker, a little dimmer with his passing.
He will be missed.
Thanks for reading.