In loving memory of Richard Sutherland Wells.
My brother Richard was a good child who became a great man. All of us gathered here today probably have our own reasons for loving and appreciating Richard as he usually had a meaningful effect on those he interacted with. As a spiritual seeker I am trying very hard to understand Richard’s sudden departure from us here on earth…and the belief that we are spiritual beings having a human experience gives me hope. As I believe Richard’s spirit had finished his quest in this earthly life and he has now moved on to a higher calling. I also believe that Richard would like me to express his appreciation to all of you – his dear family and friends – as you touched and enriched his life in your own unique ways. In particular I feel he would like me to thank his immediate loved ones…namely his beloved wife Camille who was his Number One fan in the whole wide world. Richard had no doubt in his mind that Camille loved and cherished him, neither did anyone else because she was always shouting it from the mountain top!!!!! In the world, according to Camille, Richard was the most magnificent man ever!!!!! And then there were his “Trini Parents” – Mumsie and Pops Sears-Carter – who loved Richard as if he was their own flesh and blood or as Camille would say even more than their own flesh and blood! Finally to our parents who Richard had the opportunity to toast 13 years ago at Anthony’s and my wedding… I will use Richard’s own words to illuminate the great love, honour and respect that he had for Mummy and Daddy. He said the following: “Their union is one that has had a positive impact on their friends, their children and their country. To us and I speak of Pamela and myself, we have benefited from their ideals, which are most forcefully reflected in the personality of “Lady Marian” as she was affectionately called by old suitors and admirers. Whatever she sets out to do she does with an obsessive level of dedication and care, a perfectionist at heart, sometimes to the annoyance of those around her. This has earned her the household name of “Mother-take-Charge”. Her principles are difficult to challenge and have forced us to accept nothing but the best for ourselves. Our Father is the perennial optimist, tolerant, witty, profound, a visionary, having an uncanny ability to understand those around him. These traits have served him enviously well both in his professional and personal life. Most friends admire his ability to get on with people from all quarters. Our Father’s outlook on life has helped us to pursue our dreams and passions without fear of failure.” End of quote…. As you can see from Richard’s description of our parents the apple did not fall far from the tree! And now I close as I began – with great hope…Richard your spirit lives on and your light will shine forever! One love my brother…one love.
All of us gathered here today have our own beliefs, our own faith and our own understanding of what this life is all about. And although we may differ in our beliefs, our faiths and our understanding about life there is one fundamental truth that I think we can all agree on and that is the indomitable power of LOVE. My brother….Richard Sutherland Wells is the epitome of love! In fact I did not have to go any further than the bible to find an apt description of who my brother is. In the book of 1 Corinthians Chapter 13: verses 4 – 8 I replaced the word “love” with Richard’s name and these verses expressed his true essence as follows: Richard is patient, Richard is kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. 5 He does not dishonor others, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Richard does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Richard never fails. There is so much more I could say in praise of my brother but time will not permit, although I do want to share a consoling thought …. We can take some comfort in knowing that Richard spent his last days on a continent that he was absolutely passionate about! From his early 20’s Richard developed a love for things Latin American – the countries, the food, the music, the people (especially the Latina ladies!); even the language…now you have to understand Richard was man who failed O’level Spanish and later on in life he became a fluent Spanish Speaker. Let me tell you a little story, however I must first explain some terminology, when discussing family history my husband, Anthony and I use the acronym B.C. which for most people means “Before Christ” but in our family context it means “Before Camille’. So…it was about 15 B.C. and Richard had been dating various ladies from Latin America…not all at once…but sequentially. And my brother being a true opportunist at heart not only capitalized on the pleasure of socializing with these lovely ladies, he also took the opportunity to improve his language skills by conversing with them in Spanish. There was a particular young lady from Panama who Richard had been dating for a few months but sadly the time had come for them to part ways and after Richard had outlined the situation and “Miss Panama” had given him one good Panamanian cussing….her famous parting words were…”Richard you used me for my Spanish!!!” Maas Richie – we love you and I know your spirit lives on and your light will shine forever. Walk good mi bredda – One Love!
Revelation 21:1-7 (New International Version) A New Heaven and a New Earth 21 1 Then I saw”a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City,the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,”Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people,and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said,”I am making everything new!” Then he said,”Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. The word of the Lord.
Book of Wisdom 3: 1-5, 9 But the souls of the upright are in the hands of God, and no torment can touch them. To the unenlightened, they appeared to die, their departure was regarded as disaster, their leaving us like annihilation; but they are at peace. If, as it seemed to us, they suffered punishment, their hope was rich with immortality; Slight was their correction, great will their blessings be. God was putting them to the test and has proved them worthy to be with him; Those who trust in him will understand the truth, those who are faithful will live with him in love; for grace and mercy await his holy ones, and he intervenes on behalf of his chosen.
THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD
I do not know the exact moment we became friends but 34 years ago I had no thought that I would be standing here now to give the eulogy for Richard Wells. There was no context for such a thing. To say that his passing is a shock is a statement somewhere below the realm of understatement. My attempt to communicate the reasons for this will form the substance of my words this morning. Not long after I heard of Richard’s passing, I started constructing this eulogy, not by virtue of assumption or any notion of self-importance but because I feel most inside of words. They have always been both haven and persecutor. Having officially been awarded the task by Camille, and in spite of cautious Richard’s cautious admiration for my rather cavalier approach to life and things in general, today I will not be winging it. This ‘saying’ is too important. I only hope that after what feels like lifelong servitude, language breaks from tradition by supporting rather than dismissing its servant, especially as I no longer have Richard the Dictator, in both senses of the word, standing over my shoulder and telling me how to write. Few have any idea what a gift it is to be able to turn your back towards someone every day without fear of either inefficiency or moral failure. So, my preliminary thoughts were to share with everyone else our specific shared experiences, to offer what may have been a private window. It did not last. A limited construct was not sustainable. In the everyday hurly burly, I do not know whether you remember that people wear their souls in the same way they wear their clothes, that the human spirit is visible. And that a palpable part of our individual souls is the community of people we know. We all wear the people we remember, their touches are all over us. It may be the reason why people who live long and close together begin to resemble. In the days before and after Saturday the third of May 2014, I am reminded of Richard in numerous other people. Their narrative speaks volumes, again, in both senses of the word. It is important to understand why these stories are so telling. The point is we carry each other unawares. Put differently, what I see of Richard in other people is an unconscious truth. What follows therefore is not beatification, exaggeration, aggrandizement or any form of compensation. Rather it is an attempt to capture some of the truth of Richard in our lives. Only once was Richard’s narrative given greater voice than when I broke the news to various people, Lorraine, the MD’s CEO, cmb management, my children, my siblings, our friends… or when people who knew him spoke to me or told other people about him who then told me. The language was the same, words like ‘surreal’, ‘it is still out there’, ‘I still can’t believe it’, ‘nah’… repeat expressions of a strange impossibility that continually threatens to overrule fact, not for the sake of predictable denial, but because Richard’s death remains outside of comprehension. I have struggled to articulate it in time for today. After all, this would likely be the last gathering of its size where I would have the opportunity to fulfil my duty to provide better understanding and insight. I sought assistance in others. And yes, they were right, some major part of the shock was Richard’s age, vitality, reliability, helpfulness, positive involvement, that we knew him, liked and loved him… these certainly account for the tragedy and the pain. But tragedy and pain come standard at times like this. It took me a very long while and much effort to finally see the obvious. Richard was a lot of human. And the part of that human many of still carry inside ranges from substantial to huge. We struggle with the idea of his passing because we are in fact wrestling with ourselves. Of course it is impossible, the idea is absurd, how can he be gone if we are still here? Those of us whose lives he touched know exactly of what I speak. Sadness and regret often bless us with understanding. Post Peru, it was put to me that Richard was one of the people the Caribbean needs. That he went around helping people without making any noise. In the current intensity, where we are bombarded by unattractive global news, where, more poignantly, the obvious slipperiness of our national morality wraps itself closer and tighter around us, we more than ever want people like him. An example… At cmb, Richard and I made a decision to refrain from political advertising and recently Richard asked me if I still held to that position. Not long after, we both attended the Anti-Corruption Conference hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute. He was early. I scraped in just in time. Half way through we looked at each other and knew that our decision had been reconfirmed. In the ethic of cynicism where expedience is playing a mas as moral clarity, we knew that business was about more than just making money. That not every legal dollar is an honest dollar. An organization is a composite intelligence, intellectual and moral. For it to shine bright, its individual human parts must be joined by discipline, imagination and fair play. It stands to reason therefore that you cannot dedicate such a brain to ill purpose. Not if you want that brain to remain a light, in both the ways that sounds. Richard introduced a mantra to our frequent private discussions, many of which were around difficult decisions, unpleasant tasks and complex pressures. His mantra, “Is it the correct thing to do?” Richard may not have made much noise but his life was no silent prayer. I lie. Pit Bull Wells – yes, strangely enough he enjoyed the same analogy at Havana Hut – Pit Bull Wells could make noise, doggedly sinking his teeth so insistently into a particular argument that one was not even allowed to agree with him, especially after red wine or gin and tonic. Longstanding client notwithstanding, I am afraid he was not much of a beer drinker, all protocols observed. I admit I provide this anecdote with more than a wicked smile inside because finally I am getting to have the last word. I would relinquish this privilege in a heartbeat. We argued every single day at work, after work on a Friday over drinks and sometimes on weekends over the phone, but never over good food, Richard wasn’t capable of arguing over good food… And never, never, never did we argue about the truly important things that formed the basis of permanent agreement. One of the rewards of virtue is functional intelligence, and Richard was no fool. An FYI. It is incumbent upon me to let you know that our cautious Richard was actually far from cautious. He had a vision for our business and business in general, and was unafraid to calculate his risks. Rather than throw caution to the wind, he had the courage to think in a storm and act without being flustered. Being the banker that he was, he would map the financial landscape, I in turn would navigate the human geography, and we would embark on our journeys together. We were lucky to share something critical – our notion of possibility and thereby our right to succeed was not subject to the postcolonial constriction of self-doubt that suffocates so many of us. Richard may not be here to see them through personally but I assure you his several ideas are still in motion. You know you have a real partner when he has given you his tools so that you may persevere in his absence. I am sure that Ian, Ajodha, Barry and Vince, concur. I am sure that many at Havana Hut and cmb concur. I am sure that the caregivers at apartment J4 concur. I know Camille concurs. If we must laugh in the face of death, at least let it be something funny. Years ago, in this very church, right over there, at a small wedding ceremony, followed by an economical reception, a groom by the name of Richard Sutherland Wells twitched involuntarily as if zapped and re-zapped by lightning when the Bishop who was marrying him to Camille Sears-Carter said, “…share all your worldly goods.”. We all laughed at his visible horror, including Camille. The Bishop was not amused. Richard’s reaction was both in and out of character. He may have been a jealous god (with a common ‘g’, I haven not forgotten where I am) when it came to his dollars, but he was also very generous with these very dollars and so much more. For example, many years ago, he hosted me in Cuba, this was long before any thought of cmb in either of us, it was the vacation experience of a lifetime. He even gave up his master bedroom and slept in the guest room so that I would be more comfortable. That was one of many simple, relatively small acts that revealed a genuine selflessness. The world was a better place with Richard in it. Another example… When cmb turned 40, a big brand opportunity for a branding organization, we didn’t do anything. So, last year, when we turned 45, we were determined not to waste it. We were looking for an idea and Richard said, or was that insisted, that we should give back to the community, take every cent that we were going to spend celebrating ourselves and put that money into a meaningful charitable event. After all, we had been generating revenue for 45 years from the ‘community’. cmb buy-in was immediate, anni-serv-ary was born, cmb was the exclusive sponsor and we treated 140 children and their chaperones to a day of fun, food, entertainment and service… a day of real connection put on by cmb staff, and a client who joined us. It would be remiss of me not to mention here that S. M. Jaleel gave us two bouncy castles for the day at no additional cost. Richard acknowledged afterwards that cmb had taken the idea far beyond his original expectations. Yet he was the initial inspiration, not to mention that he worked tirelessly as Chief Sanitation Engineer, i.e., he took leadership responsibility for the administration of trash. As for formal branding, we insisted that there would be no cmb or other brand logos anywhere at the event as it was to be entirely free of commercial intent. But don’t worry, we more than got our money’s worth. It was a brand new idea and it felt really good. As for Mr. Wells, typically, he was so busy doing that I don’t think he spent too much time reflecting on his personal contribution. Rather he was ultimately concerned with the success of the event in terms of our guests’ enjoyment as well as how it motivated and united our staff. When the sun is so busy shining that it is unaware of its own light, the moon and other planets still feel it. Richard and I decided that anni-serv-ary will be an annual event but we are going to seriously miss our garbage man. We are also going to miss his open-door counsel, his genuine desire to see people prosper, his imagination for others and other smaller things: the poom-poom shorts replete with sexy legs heading off for an evening jog around the Savannah; the rubbing of delighted hands over profit and pork alike; the licking of his lips at the mere suggestion of a cordon bleu meal, choice alcohols – Appleton, a cognac, red wine; an espresso; hiding his veges and salad like a child in the corner of his food box and trying not to get caught; the almost childlike joy of his helicopter; and, of course, the daily IT routine, everything from plugging in and ‘plugging out’ to haranguing our internet providers to imposing Dell PCs on Mac users, if I was not a director I may well have been forced to write this eulogy in a user-unfriendly environment. A few observations… In the 34 years I have known the goodly Mr. Wells, I have never seen him distinguish between people on the basis of race, sex, station in life or level of education. These things were not on his radar. Everyone got the unlicensed pit bull in full blast. Discrimination was reserved for food and drink, appetites he had nurtured from early o’clock. His mother reminded him that when she and his father took them into J’Ouvert as children, Pamela, not unexpectedly, was there for the bacchanal, but little Richard could only think about the ice cream that was presumably the treat at the end of the festivities. Richard was critical about many things, but he was passionately critical. His criticisms were never about bringing things and people down. It was always about wanting things to be better. If one thing was intolerable to Mr. Fix-it, it was to remain in a fix. Richard also refused a director-sized office. Not only did he think it was too much personal noise, he wanted to sit in a room where he he could look at the lights of the servers and routers blink all day long. The carcinogenic risk was miniscule when compared to the glory of his functioning IT system. On the Saturday in question, I got the call. Next, it was impossible to call Jamaica, even the operator could not get through. Eventually, through Julie’s Facebook efforts, Jamaica called me. It is here, later in a medical clinic in Peru and at recent family events that the narrative of Richard in the lives others has naturally spoken to me in the loudest and clearest of voices. Yet, volume and clarity notwithstanding, I am unable to decipher the parts of him from the rest of them. Theirs is a testimony of closeness without discordance. I hear no buts, in spite ofs, could have beens, should have beens, if onlys or well you knows. Unless I am both blind and deaf, apology does not preface their affection for Richard. Nor is there any bitter after taste in their love. His wife, his parents, his sister, his in-laws, those with whom he lived and loved, it is not so much that they ‘wear’ him as that they are of each other. In much the same way that I cannot imagine a colour I have never seen, I do not know how they feel. What I do know is that the quality of their love communicates the quality of the man, the son, the brother. I think a eulogy is generally supposed to be about one person. Well, not this eulogy, not today, which, when you think of Richard, is clearly appropriate. In Jamaica, which is where I was ostensibly a student of English and where Richard and I met, apparently we also crossed paths at Dunross as children, I learnt something about love from the poet, Robert Browning, who learnt it himself in part because his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, redirected him. The love between the Brownings is believed to be one of the more famous in literature but, from time to time, even the most sensitive of men needs to be told what he is supposed to feel. The lesson was, if you have truly loved before, you can truly love again. Richard and Camille did not need poetry or at least written poetry to know this. Richard was fearless in many ways and the courage to love was one of them, he met an equal courage in a rather good looking, crazy-ish woman with a mad streak of grey hair, aka Camille. Not forgetting where I am, again, I must say she is one helluva a woman, in all possible senses of the word. She may well be the best I have seen in the worst I have seen. Wells chose well. And I am not sure that Richard’s last moments could possibly have been happier. It is small comfort perhaps but it is true. Richard was with the woman he loved, in Spanish speaking Latin America, which he loved, about to fulfil a dream to go to Machu Picchu, a place he loved since it first entered his imagination. All of the above is some of what I see and I hope it has been both illustrative and recognizable, if incomplete. Those of you who know me at all, know that I am not qualified to speak of any life but this one, which brings me to this eulogy’s final responsibility, to help us all say goodbye. I am not one for denial but I believe in remembrance where deserved. The needs of the Caribbean, for that matter, the world, have not disappeared. If there is any truth in what I see of Richard in you, the people whom he touched, if you recognize any of it, then he perseveres, his life persists as long as we brave adversity by keeping the good of him as part of us. It is no secret that there are troubled times ahead and, if we truly wish to celebrate his life, I suggest we do so in our own courage and imagination. It is fair to say that I loved this man, my friend, my partner, my counselor. Besos y abrazos, Señor Wells. It still seems impossible, but it isn’t.
This is hard. Honestly, I don’t know how to begin. I know I should begin by saying that we are here not only to remember, but to honor the life of Richard Sutherland Wells. But where do I begin to tell you all about the man Richard was. Richard was a man who lived for life and lived for others. He was never afraid and he was brave enough to be the man he felt he should be. I loved the man that Richard was, and I believe the things that made Richard the man he was are what we all loved about him. Chivalry, justice, honor, compassion, integrity, determination, stubbornness, respect, and heart are words that describe the man Richard was. Richard was loyal to a fault and the words that he spoke, rang with the sound of truth. He was all about goodness and doing what he thought was right. Richard was the type of man that even when faced with things that would scare most of us; he always found time to give. I have known Richard for what seemed like a long time, until today. We shared a common passion for fine cigars, content-intense conversations and a good laugh. And while Richard had his quirky quirks, like his unique fashion sense (until he met Camille of course), and the unrelenting practice of asking the same question at least a thousand times in 3 minutes, he was full of heart and gusto and never afraid to go after what he wanted, no matter how hard he had to work for it or what sacrifice he had to make. Another life lesson Richard taught me was simply to enjoy life. And did he ever enjoy life, up until his final hours. But the most important thing Richard taught me was how to be a friend. Richard was a good friend to everyone he loved, even those who at times he found impossible to like. He was friends to some simply because he felt that they needed him to be. Richard would buy you lunch; give you a place to stay if you had nowhere else to go, or even fight a fight that he couldn’t win. He was one of 3 or 4 friends that I can always count on. If I needed anything, Richard would do everything he could to help me. When my house was badly flooded out in 2012, Richard was the first to offer help, threatening to come to my house at 1.00 am in the morning to assist with mop up operations. He did not only do these types of things for me. He did this for his family, and if you were his friend you were his family. As we reflect on our time with Richard we remember what it was we loved about him and what we will miss the most about him. Through the adventure of our cigar business we got to know each other well and as he would always say in his Jamaican-Trini accent when faced with a tough business situation, “Don’t worry, Ho a Shua, we will struggle on!” Richard loved a good story, a good joke and a great movie. His favorite movie was Casablanca which I myself have grown to love. And as Bogey said in that movie: “Only the good die young.” And now these words have never seemed so true. Richard, you are one of my heroes, and a man among men. And even in death Richard has taught me about life. His final lesson was to show the people you love that you love them now, because life is short. People often speak of happiness in tragedy. I never understood this until I witnessed the blessing that came from Richard’s tragic end. Richard taught me this lesson by what I have witnessed today, the uniting of all his family and friends. Because of this final lesson I know that all is right with the world. I owe him so much for what he brought to my life. I have to share with you that I wasn’t sure if I could handle this. I was afraid to make the trip to Peru but Richard would have been there for me, so I travelled to Peru with this indescribable feeling in my heart and the fear of what my heart already knew. It just seemed to get harder and harder and during those few days in Peru, I had so many feelings: fear and denial quickly overcome by sadness. I spent this time in Peru guilt-ridden deep in thought, questioning my beliefs and non-beliefs. Richard believed God is not in a book but in our hearts. I am not a priest so I have left the appropriate bible quotes to them. But that doesn’t mean I have not talked about God here today. I spoke of God through words like heart and love. After all, love is God’s greatest gift, and so don’t leave here today empty or sad, but with a heart full of love, forever and always. So do like Richard: live well, laugh often, and love much. Farewell Richard Sutherland Wells, Great Man, Great Friend.
I first met Richard Wells on his wedding day to Camille. I had heard a lot about him and I was curious to meet the man who swept my Camille off her feet in a whirlwind romance. I admit I was wary; I have always been very protective of Camille, a feature of our friendship which dates back to childhood. I needn’t have worried. Over the next eleven years I got to know Richard and I came to recognise him as not only an intelligent and engaging individual with a sometimes wicked sense of humour, but also a caring husband whose primary focus was his wife’s happiness and wellbeing. I recall a memorable Valentine’s Day when Richard treated Camille and a group of her girlfriends, including me, to an evening out at a restaurant. He presented each of us with a single red rose – winning major kudos from every female present; and upping the ante for our respective partners who were later subjected to the ”Why don’t you organise events like Richard?” conversation. Richard was a bon vivant. I have many fond memories of stimulating conversations, fuelled by a glass or two of something interesting; shared with Richard and Camille at my house. Richard brought joy to Camille and he was devoted to her parents Louise and John. Like many of you I ask myself: “Why was Richard taken so soon?” Sometimes although the questions are simple, the answers are complicated. I cannot claim to understand God’s plan. But I take comfort in the words of Rabindranath Tagore: “If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars. “ Richard was a star and my life is better for having known him. May he rest in peace.