So Many Ways to Say Good­bye to an Icon

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Clau­dia Elei­box

SIr Derek Wal­cott was not a head of state or in any way af­fil­i­ated with the po­lit­i­cal af­fairs of the coun­try, but the No­bel lau­re­ate re­ceived a state fu­neral from Saint Lu­cia. This de­ci­sion was made, of course, be­cause Derek Wal­cott put Saint Lu­cia in the in­ter­na­tional spot­light after win­ning the 1992 No­bel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture. He and the late Sir Dun­stan St. Omer made an oath to cap­ture Saint Lu­cia in poetry and paint be­fore they left her soil, by which they both de­fined na­tional sig­nif­i­cance. In Wal­cott’s years he made in­valu­able contributions to the is­land’s cul­tural, the­atri­cal and lit­er­ary as­pects.

On the night prior to Derek Wal­cott’s highly hon­ourary de­par­ture, the lit­er­ary and the­atri­cal com­mu­nity paid trib­ute to him. Weeks after our No­bel Lau­re­ate Fes­ti­val, the same faces who per­formed through­out in cel­e­bra­tion of his achieve­ments, did it one more time, but to say good­bye. Tributes in the form of song, dance, drama and poetry recitals were pre­sented on­stage at the Na­tional Cul­tural Cen­tre. The event was a vari­ant of a lo­cal wake for the dead and in­cluded tra­di­tional sto­ry­telling, drum­ming, dances and re­fresh­ments. With just days to pre­pare, the per­form­ers and the Cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion pulled off a mem­o­rable event.

The fol­low­ing day, Satur­day March 25, 2017, Sir Derek’s fam­ily, friends, past stu­dents, mem­bers of par­lia­ment, Saint Lu­cian literati, stu­dents from St. Mary’s Col­lege and Gor­don & Wal­cott Me­mo­rial Methodist School, plus ap­pre­cia­tive Saint Lu­cian cit­i­zens gath­ered at the Mi­nor Basil­ica of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion to bid the body of Sir Derek Wal­cott a mor­tal good­bye. Wal­cott, with his words, his teach­ings or his walk through life, seared dif­fer­ent mem­o­ries onto the depths of most of those at­ten­dants’ hearts.

The view­ing of Wal­cott’s body was held at the House of Par­lia­ment, after which it was es­corted by an of­fi­cial, na­tional pa­rade to the cathe­dral, lo­cated across from the Derek Wal­cott Square. The pro­ces­sion fol­lowed strict pro­to­col of a state fu­neral.

Emer­i­tus Ed­ward Baugh, some­one whom Wal­cott coun­selled about lit­er­a­ture dur­ing his life­time de­liv­ered the eu­logy of his life. Baugh’s in­ti­mate re­counts of mo­ments shared with Derek Wal­cott pierced the thoughts of every­one there, es­pe­cially those who shared sim­i­lar mem­o­ries or could re­late to those Derek-like be­hav­iours. Again, Wal­cott was trib­uted in var­i­ous forms: McDon­ald Dixon, Jane and Ken­del Hip­polyte, Robert Lee and Adrian Augier each re­cited one of his poems and Elra Er­mayGlas­gow ren­dered Ave Maria beau­ti­fully. The music, voices and per­for­mances lived up to Wal­cott’s refined per­cep­tion of art.

Con­tin­u­ing to fol­low pro­to­col, Sir Derek Wal­cott’s cas­ket was trans­ported to Morne For­tune fol­low­ing a pa­rade of uni­formed mem­bers of the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force. He and Sir Arthur Lewis shared the same birth­day, na­tional honour and home­land, equal No­bel Prize recog­ni­tion and now the same burial lo­ca­tion: at the me­mo­rial site of the Royal In­niskillin Fusiliers.

Sir Derek Wal­cott’s cas­ket was trans­ported to Morne For­tune fol­low­ing a pa­rade of uni­formed mem­bers of the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force.

The heart­felt send-off was at­tended by Sir Derek’s fam­ily, friends, past stu­dents, mem­bers of Par­lia­ment, Saint Lu­cian literati, schoolchil­dren and well-wish­ers.

Artists and mu­si­cians paid trib­ute to the late No­bel lau­re­ate.

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