Sir Derek Walcott: Dead But Immortal!

(Left to right) Sir Derek Walcott Michael Castanet and Rick Wayne.

Until you’ve accomplished the goal you’ve set yourself you have not done enough! That was Derek Walcott’s unforgettable impassioned warning to me a year or so ago when something I said left the impression I might be among those who were ready to throw in the towel precisely when his beloved Helen was most in need of her faithful sons and daughters.

“How can you call yourselves my friends,” he added, “when you are ready to desert this country in its hour of need? You know what Saint Lucia means to me?”

I certainly knew the answer. And the answer was everything! That fact was evident in his oeuvre, in his public addresses, his lectures, the interviews he gave the world’s most prestigious magazines and periodicals, in his determined decision to spend his last years in the land that gave him birth—if little else.

Derek Walcott passed away in the early hours of Friday morning, at his Becune Park home, surrounded by family members who knew, as did Mae and I, the end was near. Sadly he did not live to see the theater so often promised by successive administrations. Nor did he have the opportunity to open a school library in his name. But then Derek Walcott was never concerned with what his country could do for him—only what he could do for Helen. There’ll be time enough to list his gifts, his countless contributions, whether or not acknowledged. Whether or not fully appreciated. My heart is with you, Derek, my friend, mentor, my inspiration. I must pause till it come back to me!

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