He helped transform and enlighten
PASSAGES: RICHARD GOTO FEB. 26, 1947 — MARCH 1, 2017 ‘During those years his gift and purpose was to bring delight to our lives’
I met Richard Goto 19 years ago down at Southwest Regional Centre, the provincially run institution where he had been living for many years.
He was born during the era when the parents of a child with a developmental disability were told that his or her needs would best be met in such a facility, and so he was placed there, and remained until the age of 51.
In 1998, Richard became one of a cohort of individuals soon to be repatriated to Hamilton to live in neighbourhood homes and so our paths crossed as I was part of the team sent in to draft his profile and judge his suitability for community living.
It seems comical now to think back and remember the hesitation the staff at that institution felt about Richard leaving and being able to “make it” in a community setting. Sure, they were correct that, at times, he could be stubborn, disinterested or annoyed if he didn’t get something he wanted, but upon meeting him, his infectious smile and determined demeanour told me he had a purpose beyond the walls of that building.
I think that secretly the staff at the institution didn’t want him to leave because he had won their hearts, as he had won mine in a twohour visit. I knew he had to come to L’Arche and thank God he did.
Richard was a man who loved Elvis’ music and loved to dance. He would sing karaoke (terribly) and light up the room with laughter and joy without effort. He spoke very rarely, but from time to time could be overheard chatting in his native Japanese while on the phone with his beloved sisters, Tosh and Miyoko. He took great pride in his appearance as he meticulously groomed and dressed each day. He endeared himself to almost everyone when he would kiss you on the top of your head in appreciation of something or take your hand to determinedly join you in a routine task like grocery shopping or banking.
Richard was well and healthy living with us in L’Arche Hamilton for 10 years. During those years his gift and purpose was to bring delight to our lives. He was a small, quiet man whose love for music, dance, song, parties, and other people made L’Arche Hamilton a joyous community and all those who knew him laughed in celebration.
Following those years of wellness came the onset of Alzheimer’s and Richard’s needs gradually became more and more complicated. The dancing and singing came to an end, but his love for his sisters and the rest of us was still obvious in his smile and sparkling eyes. Even quieter now, his call to us to gather around him and care for him was loud and clear, and in doing so we were stretched and challenged to grow. He seemed to have a new purpose: to help us as a community to understand our limits, to forgive ourselves when we don’t have the answers, and to love one another more despite our increased feelings of helplessness.
It was a long goodbye for Richard. Half the time we knew him he was well, and half the time he was not, but we lived a lifetime of laughter and dance in those too short years. Fare thee well, my friend.
Richard Goto made L’Arche Hamilton a joyous community.