Joseph Chow died March 21, 2022, at the age of 37. His father, Alfred, delivered the following eulogy at his funeral Mass at Our Lady of Fatima RC Church, Curepe on Saturday, March 26.
If I were to choose three words to describe Joseph’s life,
I would use the words – ‘In spite of’.
Joseph was born on Friday, March 15, 1985, and I can recall the sights and sounds and smells of that early morning at Stanley’s Nursing Home as if it were yesterday. I can still hear his mother’s voice when he was handed to her: “It’s a little boy.”
About three weeks after his birth, that little boy was diagnosed at the Port of Spain General Hospital as having a hole in his heart, which was the cause of his limbs being floppy, and for him to experience episodes when he would struggle to breathe and faint; his skin taking on a dark blue hue in the process.
So now, Joseph faced the situation where, on the one hand his survival was at risk because of the hole in his heart, but on the other hand he was underweight and weak and his chances of surviving heart surgery was estimated to us as being about 20 per cent.
His paediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada, where he was being treated, then suggested that the best option to increase his odds, which we took, would be to return to Trinidad for him to try and gain some weight before returning later in December for surgery.
Back in Trinidad with persistent feeding and care by his mother, he thrived slowly.
December came, and we were told, on assessment in Trinidad that as he was making some progress, we would put off surgery for a while, and keep on monitoring his condition.
That he survived to serve as an acolyte at this parish of Our Lady of Fatima for over 20 years, I sincerely believe is because of the many prayers offered by you, the parishioners of Curepe and all those who knew about his condition at that time.
By the way, he never underwent heart surgery, and over the years, we were still putting off that return to the Hospital for Sick Children.
In spite of.
At that time God was not ready to take him.
We believe that this time, He was indeed ready for him. So that, even though your prayers for his recovery were not seemingly heard, he was granted instead, the grace and strength to travel on his difficult journey home:
For the three weeks, from when we first learnt about his condition, Joseph never once complained or was resentful about his discomfort and rapidly decreasing mobility of his limbs, and thankfully, did not experience the severe pain that usually occurs when multiple organs are attacked by cancer.
God also granted him the grace of a blessed and peaceful death, with all his family around him.
Because of his many fainting episodes at birth, we had Joseph assessed and discovered that he was dyslexic at a level where he would not cope with our formal education system. As a result, he did not go through the ‘normal’ school system as his siblings did.
But that did not stop him from growing up to be wise and productive in many ways. When Joseph was around, everything was neat, in place and organised. When we wanted to find something that was misplaced in the house, the first remark was “ask Joe”.
Joseph was intuitive and insightful about persons and had a charm and manner that made a lasting impression on many people with whom he interacted.
In his special manner of addressing his siblings he would refer to his brother as “my son”, his sister Alissa as “my dear”, and his uncle Roger, when he moved in with us as “my stepson.” In fact, this is the way that we have come to address each other in our household.
Any situation seemingly involving confusion and contention affected him deeply. For instance, whenever an argument would potentially develop between his mother and myself at the table, he would exclaim “Oh please!” and we would both stop and laugh, and that was the end of it.
As early as we possibly could, we put him to work in the family business, and whenever he got his weekly stipend, he would put it aside and ask me to put it in the bank account that was opened in his name. In time, I used to joke “Joe boy, give me a loan.”
I want to tell you that this “dyslexic” boy who couldn’t go to normal school, personally paid for all his medical bills at the St Augustine Private Hospital. In spite of.
Whenever he would ask me to do something for him that required some effort or inconvenience on my part, he’d tap me gently on my shoulder afterwards and say, “Sorry dad for giving you so much trouble.”
You made us learn how to love a little more, and you have taught us all how to live our lives in spite of.
Thank you, and it was a privilege having and knowing a son (and a brother) like you.