Paulette Wilson has died. She moved to the UK from Jamaica in 1968, but was stripped of her rights by the home office and left destitute as the Windrush scandal unfolded. While awaiting compensation, Paulette selflessly campaigned for justice for others.
My Father died 47 years ago. He had served in the 8th Army seeing action at El Alamein. This is not meant to be his story but reflecting, while there was sense in celebration when bombs stopped dropping on England, perhaps we might celebrate in 2020 with care. I guess my father, and others like him had not been demobbed. He didn’t talk much about his war. He had firm friends. Some had died. When he came home he had a nervous breakdown – post-traumatic stress? Some years later he was chronically and then terminally ill dying at the age of sixty. My mother died at the same age one year later. How much of this was an aftermath of war I’ll never know. I do know that in the fifties it was common to see men who had lost limbs not being lauded as paralympic athletes. Some things have changed…thank God…
They sent him home, a broken man,
each nerve and sinew torn or strained
and what was celebrated then
he recognised as little gained.
The trauma of that noise and strife,
the shattered buildings, tear torn lives,
with stunned, dismembered memories,
and, though he struggled, each survives.
The shell-shocked post-traumatic stress,
his past so vivid, sharpened, bright,
has left him stumbling through a void,
toward a mist enshrouded night.
And now as we look back this day,
into a past that some have known,
may we revere the ones we see,
and recognise the grief they own.
And deeper truths must still be learned:
that no dispute is worth a life,
that peace and justice, kindness, love,
must bring an end to earthly strife.
I vow to love my neighbour, whatever race or creed,
to join her in her suffering, to plead with him in need.
This love will always question, will search out right and wrong,
will give itself for justice, for those who don’t belong.
This love will never falter, till every soul is free,
till nations held in bondage can sing of liberty.
Through scenes of devastation, through famine, drought and war,
we’ll work in ways of gentleness, work hard till we restore
the vision of the people, the hope of human grace,
till nations dwell in peacefulness together in this place;
till all the world together can sing in joyful praise
till all have found communion together in our days.