Friday, June 19, 2009
Father's Last Wish (Revised)
John A. Carroll
Yesterday was another "tragedy" in Haiti. But Father Jeri got his last wish at the end of the day.
A young man named Junior took at least one bullet to the head and Haiti's most beloved priest was buried eight hours later.
I heard the nearby shots and how sickening it is now to think that a young life was snuffed out instantly. For what reason?
Father Jeri had made a practice of burying victims of MINUSTAH's bullets, but now he couldn't do anything. Father was in the black hearse unable to help.
So pandemonium occurred outside the Cathedral as the "Haitian masses" ran to miss more bullets. Sweat ran from people's faces but they had the look of determination to survive another attack. That seems to be what Haitian's do best.
The Veye Yo people lost track of Father's hearse for awhile as everyone scattered in different directions. However the Haitian guy on the horse dressed up like Napoleon kept his cool and galloped towards the National Palace.
And fearless young men picked up Junior's body and carried it to the National Palace for the "authorities" to see. At least Fr. Jeri did not have to witness this gruesome event.
I ended up with Wadner Pierre at the side of the Palace of Justice, a big white building. I thought, "What justice is there in Haiti? Why do they need such a big impressive building?"
What justice was granted Fr. Jeri during his life by the Duvaliers and the de-facto governments that have plagued Haiti for 40 years? What justice is granted the Haitian refugees in Miami that Father sought to protect? What justice was provided to Fr. Jeri when powerful people in Haiti and the United States should have made sure he was never imprisoned and then kept incarcerated with untreated cancer?
What justice was granted Junior yesterday when his head was blown off?
Wadner and I joined up with our group on a street corner thanks to cell phone communication. We headed south and west out of Port-au-Prince for the five hour drive to Cavaillon with the funeral procession.
I think Father is in Heaven and laughed his baritone laugh regarding the trip to bury him.
We stopped in Mirogane and talks were given by Rene Civil and Lavarice Gaudin. People peered in the back window of the dusty hearse to see Father's casket.
After Mirogane, the trip continued and wound up the mountains to the south and the blue ocean was in front of us.
The chauffeurs driving the vehicles in the procession were driving too fast and passing when they shouldn't have. Father probably would have been advising discipline and prudence at that point...
Father's last battle came going up a mountain side just before St. Louis du Sud. The black hearse just couldn't make it up the side. So what would have paralyzed most people in the "developed world" was handled eloquently by the people that loved Father so much.
Wadner Pierre placed rocks behind the back tires of the hearse so it wouldn't slide down, a Toyota Patrol SUV came back, and Father in his casket was skillfully placed into the Toyota.
The procession headed forward again to Notre Dame Church in Cavaillion. The Haitian National Police in a pick up truck led the entourage at that point.
The people of Cavaillion were gentle and happy to receive Father into their little village and into their Church for one last prayer and tribute. The Notre Dame priest was kind, the Church was overflowing with people, and a Catholic Sister standing next to Father's casket sang a song that know one else seemed to know.
We then headed for the cemetery which was about a 40 minute ride north into the countryside.
The fields were beautiful and green. We arrived at a little concrete "house" that had been constructed with a cross at the top. It was about 20 yards off the dirt road. This little house would become Father's earthly home for ever.
Hundreds of people were crowding around the casket as it was carefully moved from the Toyota. A little man with a baseball cap walked up and strained to look through the crowd. I was told he was Father's brother from andeyo. He looked respectful but no more concerned than any other person from the Cavaillion area.
Father Jeri was buried right next to his mother in a grave in the little concrete house.
After 62 years of struggle for justice, Father got his last wish.
My YouTube Video of Father's last blessing in Cavaillion's Notre Dame Church:
My photographs of the trip described above from Port-au-Prince to this little cemetery outside of Cavaillion are posted here.
See HaitiAction for another account of the day Father Jeri was laid to rest.