Better than Winning a Million Dollars
Geoffrey Hughes spent much of his adult life, before coming to L’Arche, living with his mother, Dorothy, in the family home at Belmore. Dorothy was utterly devoted to him and his care, but as she aged and her health deteriorated became less able to give him the support he needed. After a fall, which required her hospitalisation, Geoffrey lived in respite accommodation for a number of months in different houses around Sydney. This was not satisfactory, as he was moved from one house to another and didn’t have the chance to settle in one place. Both he and his mother were unhappy with this arrangement. Eventually, however, a place became available in L’Arche Sydney and Geoffrey moved into the house at Burwood in December 2003. Sometime later Dorothy said to another L’Arche community member that if she’d had the choice between winning a million dollars or having Geoffrey live in the L’Arche community, she would choose L’Arche without a second thought. Dorothy lived for another eight or so years after Geoffrey moved to Burwood and would regularly visit him there, or meet him at one of the local clubs for a meal.
Geoffrey fitted into the L’Arche community very well and on the day he arrived enjoyed being part of the Kris Kringle Christmas party. It was there the community became aware of Geoffrey’s love of music and of Elvis in particular. He loves to perform, either solo, or in a group and has a great repertoire of songs.
As well as knowing many songs, Geoffrey has a good memory for other things. He knows a lot about actors and performers and the songs they’ve sung or movies they’ve been in, and on hearing a particular song can tell you who used to sing it, and in which musical. He also remembers things about people and can tell you what you wore on a particular occasion. Also, beware of making a mistake in Geoffrey’s presence, such as taking a wrong turn when you’re driving him somewhere, as years later he will say, with a smile on his face “….do you remember when you…..?”
When Geoffrey sings he does so with great enthusiasm and volume. If he can be encouraged to sing a little more gently he can produce a lovely mellow sound.
Because of his love of music Geoffrey has, for a number of years, been a member of the music group at a nearby Catholic church and regularly performs with them. Members of this group have great affection for Geoffrey and regularly come to L’Arche events to help with the music. Several of them attended Geoffrey’s mother’s funeral and it was moving both to hear them sing, and to support Geoffrey when he sang a few lines as his mother’s casket was taken away.
Geoffrey has two brothers, Warren and Ric, and they are valued members of the wider L’Arche community. They and their families regularly come to events at the Burwood house and help him celebrate important anniversaries.
Despite the occasional struggle there is no doubt that L’Arche is Geoffrey’s home.
Geoffrey Hughes and Michael Slinn