I woke up to the news of Brother Geoffrey’s demise via Dhushy’s text message that he had received from our dear friend Edward (aka Papps) in Malta. I forwarded it to some DLS friends, my brother Salman, Najmi, Faizi and a few more. My heart sank with the realization and hesitant acceptance of what is an inevitable truth. I lost both my parents over a decade ago, but this one, though different, is equally painful. A visceral gut reaction emerged wanting to be in Malta, to bid him the last farewell, to share the moments of his return to the soil and the Creator, and to be a possible pole bearer for the giant of a man, who taught so many of us the meaning of tough love. As teenagers, we were blind to what our hindsight has provided us with now. Looking back, we all realize, he helped shape our future and he didn’t know it or ever took credit for it. He was a man of cloth and lived his calling with and without the collar. A strong man, with dignity and integrity. A role model who never imposed his morality on any of us.
We had so joyfully connected with him on what would now be for many of us a memory and a treasure of a video call. That zoom call has become our first and last visual connection with him after 40 years. Selfishly, I am just glad that we had an opportunity to let him know what he meant to all of us in his lifetime. We celebrated his life from across the world and thanked him for his passion, his care, his dedication, and most of all his love.
We shared our time with him on the soccer field, the basketball courts, cricket and hockey fields, at the table soccer and when he played table tennis. We reminded him of his tuck shop days and his “Cat Stevens” collection. He was a quintessential competitor and played every single sport without any discrimination, just as he treated us all without any discrimination. During the call, he humbly admitted to his competitive nature and got a bit emotional with the love he felt from all of us. We learnt of his struggles and his perseverance through his challenges. He was teary eyed as we spoke of those of us who have left this world in their youth. Perhaps this was another reminder of the fragility of life. His voice, his smile, his piercing eyes that said more with silence than words, all of them are now a faded memory. I will treasure his memory and the email below till my dying days.
I can’t but say thank you to you all for getting in touch. I was overwhelmed by all the sentiments expressed. My sole commitment in life has always been to the kids who were entrusted to my care. To see with my own eyes and to hear how well you’ve all done is music to my ears. Although I am proud of playing a part in your life, there is something that you must keep in mind. You were born with wonderful potential. You need to thank God and your parents for this. My job was to try and present opportunities for your development. Thank God we have been a success story and I am so proud of you all!
With regards to your writing. I was impressed with your sense of community displayed in your narrative. I agree with you that nationality and religion should not be obstacles to the appreciation and worth of who we are. I never had a problem. You guys were a gift from God as far as I was concerned and I can say that the fifteen years I spent with the boarders were the most exhausting but happiest years of my life. For this I need to thank God and your parents for trusting you in my hands. At times I would sit back and wonder how I ended up with so many foreign students and so many different creeds. Once I asked a muslim parent who I knew was deeply religious, why he had trusted his two children to my care. I who was a committed Christian. You are a man of the Book and you are a good man. That answer I have always treasured.
I need to thank you all for the gift of yourselves. You gave meaning to my life.
For the sake of accuracy. We played hockey in Paola and not Rabat!!!!! Always a teacher I’m afraid!
How does one deal with such a loss? Like all my deceased loved ones, I will mourn his departure while the loss is fresh, but I will miss him always. He made a difference in my life, and perhaps I speak for many De La Salle boarders, who were treated justly, learnt the value of fair play, sportsmanship, and camaraderie, but most of all we learned to accept each other despite our differences. He embodied so much more than the words can express.
How do I come to term with a loss of a lifetime and generations? I think with a smile, gratefulness and appreciation for whom he was. He would want nothing less. I pray for his soul and feel blessed that he touched our lives. His legacy was brotherhood. Though, all the brothers at De La Salle had an impact on us, but he was the “Brother” who helped create a brotherhood among the boarders who are living in every continent of this globe, in every color, creed, religion and ethnicity that was present at De La Salle. His spirit will remain with us, and the jingling sound of his keys will ring in our hearts like the church bells that toll across Malta on Sunday mornings.
Goodbye dearest Brother Geoffrey/Francis Scerri. You played a great game, and though you lost a few rounds and were a tough loser, you won the heart of every soul that you touched.
July 11, 2021 will remain a day of remembrance for all those who love you.
May you Rest in Peace. We love you beyond words and your legacy will remain.