Death of a good man Ian On Sunday
By Ian McDonald
Stabroek News
July 11, 2004

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There are some people who are so much part of the world you know and feel secure in, that when they die, meaning that they depart forever and will never again be part of that dependable world which you have known for so long, you feel a special loss that goes deep and you experience a sense of almost desperate longing that the death you have heard of will prove not to have happened and that the person will in fact be back in his place after all, and that the normal world you know can therefore go on without this unmendable wound.

Naturally you feel this very acutely about close and beloved members of family. But there are others who bring on a similar feeling of irreparable loss, because they have been for so long an essential contributor to the good part of life and the world around you, and you will miss them deeply now that they are gone. Indeed, the world you know will not be the same again, and will be less good to live in. It is a strong feeling of loss, of some bright part of humanity gone when so much is dull and dark.

I seem always to have known Walter Chin. I suppose this is partly because he was a doctor as well as a friend, so whenever there was an emergency, or what seemed like an emergency, my wife and I fled to him for immediate help. Such occasions mostly involved our children. The elder of them is now twenty-one and the younger is fifteen and all their lives we have been bringing them to Walter Chin at every conceivable hour of the day or night. And he always responded and he always helped and he was never irritable or put out and he always said make sure to call him any time we were worried and he always gave our hearts ease.

Our elder son on hearing of Walter's death was very shaken, and he told us of his very early memories of Dr Walter Chin's infinite patience and good humour in dealing with his fears, particularly, of taking injections. I wonder how many hundreds, thousands, of other children have similar memories of the kindness of Walter Chin - just as I wonder how many people Walter reckoned could not afford the consultation fee and so he advised and helped them free.

Walter Chin led an outstanding public life. There will be others well placed to record and do justice to his many achievements. I will say this about them - they were of that special and higher order which not only brought him widespread recognition but also, more importantly, contributed immensely to helping others, easing their hurt, improving their lives, making the world a much better and less pitiless place.

I do not know the details of the work he did for the Cancer Society, of which he was a very active President. But I know that cancer is an affliction which not only attacks the body viciously but which also can fill the spirit with unrelenting despair. So the work Walter Chin was undertaking to combat cancer will have had as its purpose the lifting of despair as well as the improvement of physical treatment in thousands upon thousands of lives. I cannot think of work, which deserves higher praise than work, which lifts despair and bestows the precious gift of hope. When we measure the value of a life we must measure such things in miles, and fame itself in a few inches only.

I know of the public achievements of Walter Chin. I am aware of his prowess in sport. I have heard that he was captain of the greatest of all Guyanese hockey teams in his young days. I know at first hand of his great determination on the squash court. He was an excellent cricketer and I have had countless lively conversations about cricket with him and his close-as-kin friends Billy Fung-a-Fat, Bud Lee and Gussie Lee. How he will be missed whenever such talks take place! And surely, if there is a Heaven, in days to come he will look upon a West Indies team once more triumphant.

But truly what I write about now is the deep sadness I and my family feel at the death of a good man who showed us only kindness and care and help all the many, many times we called upon him and needed him. He provided in our life evidence that there are people who create certainty in our minds about the continuing presence of simple human solidarity.

In one of Derek Walcott's most beautiful poems, The Season of Phantasmal Peace, the poet writes of a marvellous season of goodwill which is suddenly visited on the earth, brief as the brightness in the pause between dusk and darkness. For some reason this poem with its lovely, consoling lines entered my mind as I wrote this piece on Walter. Perhaps it came to me because good men are always associated with seasons of goodwill and it may be also that I thought of Walter's life-long effort with others like him to lift together, as the poem says, "the huge net of the shadows of this earth."

My wife and sons and I thank and honour him in our thoughts, and we express our condolences and love to his wife Jay and his son Julian.