Father’s Day: Remembering Gustave Cadet

Gustave Cadet was born in Port au Prince, Haiti, in 1972. I never knew him while he lived there. My connection to Gustave was through Kent Annan’s account of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. In his book Aftershock (InterVarsity Press 2011), Kent shared Gustave’s story. After I read the book, I sent Kent a note and asked if I could connect with Gustave. After a careful amount of vetting, he put me in touch with Gustave and the kind folks who were helping him get situated in Phoenix. 

From the first time I met Gustave, I knew he was a remarkable man. I knew he sacrificed everything during the earthquake to get his son, Mike, to the triage hospital as Port au Prince crumbled around him. Mike had been ill before the earthquake, and Gustave knew this was his opportunity to meet with caregivers who might not otherwise be accessible. I knew he courageously loaded Mike on board a flight bound for Miami, hoping to find out what might be wrong. I knew it pained him to leave his wife and daughters behind as he seized the opportunity in an act of sacrificial love. Gustave always fought for his family.

Gustave and Mike eventually ended up in Phoenix, Arizona. They were part of the overflow of earthquake victims who were sent to other cities in the US. There was no more space for them in Miami. Gustave’s resolve to understand what was causing Mike’s illness ultimately paid off. Unfortunately, young Mike was diagnosed with leukemia. His diagnosis was early enough that steps could be taken and a marrow donor could be found. That marrow donor was his sister. As a result, Gustave’s remaining family members were brought to Phoenix to participate in Mike’s care and recovery. 

Not only am I grateful Mike found the care he needed in Phoenix, but I am also grateful I was able to become friends with the Cadet family and get to know them over the next decade. To me, Gustave was the epitome of a good father. For over 10 years, Gustave and I would connect from time to time. We would text, call, and occasionally visit each other. I loved watching his story unfold. Now a young man, Mike is in remission and heading into high school. Along with Mike, Gustave and his wife, Michelette, have three other children.

In the Spring of 2021, I received a phone call from Michelette. Gustave was not well. He had begun to feel ill earlier that winter. He became progressively worse until he was ultimately diagnosed with cancer. In an ill twist of fate, the father who sacrificed everything to find care for his son with cancer became the patient as cancer took over his body. His cancer was so aggressive that by June of 2021, Gustave had passed. I was grateful to be able to visit him and his family a few times before he died. Michelette and the kids were always so kind, so patient, and loving towards my family and me. This loss hit me hard, but I couldn’t begin to imagine this beautiful family’s loss as they watched their father succumb to his illness over the preceding months. I was heartbroken at his passing but equally heartbroken for those he left behind. A family without their father, a man who lived to love and serve.

In the year since his passing, I think of Gustave often. His bright smile, his patience, his kindness. His driving work ethic and unswerving dedication to caring for his family and giving them his best. He was an incredible inspiration to me as a father and a friend. Gustave’s surprise and amazement at learning new things or simply hearing something for the first time was an absolute favorite memory. He would respond to a story, a new fact, or even learn a new word in English with absolute joy. I’d go as far as to say glee. His smile would stretch from cheek to cheek, and his eyes would grow large. He’d yell out, “really!” or “wow!” with pure childlike excitement, which would immediately cause me to smile as I caught his contagious energy of discovery. Goodness, I loved him and his view of the world. Gustave was a gift to everyone who knew him.

I believe Gustave approached each day ready to be amazed by what he would see. Filled with hope and humbly available to learn, prepared to be amazed. While I love the entire poem, it’s the last line of American poet Mary Oliver’s “Mysteries, Yes” that immediately makes me think of Gustave every time I read it.

Mysteries, Yes


Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous

to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the

mouths of the lambs.

How rivers and stones are forever

in allegiance with gravity

while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds will

never be broken.

How people come, from delight or the

scars of damage,

to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those

who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say

“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,

and bow their heads.

~ Mary Oliver

“Mysteries, Yes” by Mary Oliver
Reprinted by the permission of The Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency as agent for the author.
Copyright (c) Mary Oliver 2009 with permission of Bill Reichblum.

Gustave Cadet, a man of God. A humble, hard-working, loving husband, father, and friend. I miss him very much. As we celebrate Father’s Day, I will, of course, celebrate my father, but I will also reflect on one of the most excellent fathers I’ve ever known. At Gustave’s Celebration of Life, we sang two hymns in Kreyol. One of them was “Take My Life.” Frances Havergal wrote these words back in 1874, “Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.” Gustave lived his short life to its fullest. He worked hard, loved harder, and met each day with refreshed hope and joy. His life was lived in praise to God as he faithfully served those around him and celebrated each new day. I am thankful to have been able to share some time with him.

Do you have a father or father figure who was/is influential to you? We would love to hear about them. Share your story in the comments below. 

The author, Dave Kless, serves as Heartline’s Director of US Operations. He’s been part of the Heartline team for seven years. You can reach him via email at dave@heartlineministries.org.

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