I never really knew Tony Hughes.
Never knew much about him. Where he was from. What he did for a living. What his life’s dreams were.
I suspected — correctly — he was from around here. A simple man of simple means. Comfortable with where he was and who he was …. a blessed man, serenely happy.
I didn’t know much about his hobbies except he loved to carve. He carved lots of walking sticks and the ones I saw were works of art. Beautiful. I got the sense he carved those sticks with loving, tender care. Molding each into his sense of what beauty was. And his sense was dead right, as far as my sense of art goes.
I didn’t know anything about his family …. I thought, until I read his obituary and discovered that, indeed, I knew some of his family but never made the connection.
There was something about Tony. His knowing half-smile. The steadiness of his gaze. The calmness of his demeanor. The calming effect of his presence.
Every time our paths crossed, his eyes quietly warmed up with pleasure at seeing me. Without saying anything, I knew Tony was pleased to see me. He made me feel welcome. He made me feel liked. I felt a warming closeness with him. Seeing him was always a pleasure.
I wanted one of his walking sticks and asked him how much he sold them for. He told me at the time that he didn’t make them to sell. He thought about selling some. But something in him couldn’t quite let go of them. So, he kept them. They were part of him. They were part of who he was, made with love and dedication to the task before him.
But he didn’t keep all of them. Some he gave to his fellow U.S. Veterans because he viewed them as his brothers.
Don’t get me wrong, Tony was much more than his walking sticks. Much more. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather, who savored his precious moments with those grandchildren.
I like to think that, today, Tony has a golden walking stick loving carved out by his Father in Heaven. He doesn’t need a walking stick to walk along the Streets of Gold. But it warms my heart to imagine he’ll have God’s walking stick to help him on his journey.