By Gregg Durham, Carmelite novice
It was on my last surprise visit home to Trinidad about a month ago, I walked through the living room and as usual Fr Hugh was on the phone, with his usual mischievous smile. He glanced up at me and remarked, “Be still my heart… now I could dead! Look who walked in here with his fat self.”
The woman on the phone line as usual yelled at him for his remark. Quickly, hanging up the phone, he dished out his usual banter. I just sat and took it all in, because I knew how much I missed it. Finally, he would go into the bedside drawer, digging until he found the bank card.
“I need a case of coke. Look and see if it have fabric softener, laundry detergent and bleach.” Handing me the bank card, he said “Here, you know the pin.” It was like I had never left or I hadn’t been gone for a year and a half. “Oh! Buy some Magnum ice cream while you’re out, and take out some money from the ATM for meh.”
Quickly I would go. It was like an immediate impulse that became second nature. As I was walking out the door to run his errands, he said, “You know I love you very much.”
This was a snippet of the journey I had with Fr Hugh Joyeau and our last memory together.
Fr Hugh kept my heart pumping. I was always either dodging him or enduring his abusive words on the phone; this priest knew how to dish it and retaliate all in one. I recall a night I was preparing for an important exam, the phone rang. “Hello?” in his usual tone and he proceeded to give me his usual teasing. I dared not tell him I was busy. I just enjoyed hearing from him. Then, trying to end the call, I interjected with: “This is an international call, thanks for calling.” Who told me to say that! “It is I call you. I paying for this call, so let meh talk as much as I want.”
While we had our usual jokes and ‘picong’, when it got serious, he meant business. He would save relationships, offering spiritual and well-needed advice, supported, checked in regularly but of all things, he was the one who taught me not to fear expressing how much you love someone, because he was never afraid to express it.
I was on my flight back to New Jersey. When I landed, my mother called and said Fr Hugh had just called home to say goodbye but she told him that he missed me by a few hours.
God knew the plan He had for you. I was not ready to say goodbye. Now, so very far away from Trinidad, I reminisce at telling him I would bawl and beat up his coffin when he dies. Well Fr Hugh, you had the last laugh again. I won’t be there to fulfil that promise.
I’m left with fond memories and happy thoughts but also the biggest reminder to try not to cry because “I’ll be home with my maker; is you to ketch.” Yours was a journey, a life that many can celebrate and cherish.
Rest now in peace Fr Hugh. You have served so well.