Tony Benn, a much respected British politician, died in the early hours of this morning. He was a man I have admired for all my life. He was a man of deep integrity, deep humanity and always had the good of others at heart.
I have a beautiful little book, given to me by a very special friend, in which I collect quotations and I would like to share a couple from Tony Benn which I wrote in my book in 2007 while listening to him on BBC Radio 4’s ‘With Great Pleasure’.
When talking about losing his dear wife, Caroline, to whom he had been married for almost fifty one years, he said,” You cannot fill the gap left by a death like that, you can simply decorate it with good memories.” I loved that and know that the gap left by his death will indeed be decorated with good memories. He was a much loved man.
He told his audience that his Grandmother once said,”The great thing about your last journey is that you don’t have to pack!” and that thought appeals to me as a Humanist.
Another occasion when we were lucky enough to hear him speak in person, in Sheffield, he spoke about where his core beliefs had come from. His father had told him, ” Never wrestle with a chimney sweep,” when he was only eight years old, meaning if you fight dirty some of the dirt will rub off on you. He was an inspiring orator with deeply held convictions from which he never wavered.
On Question Time, 22 March 2007, he said, “I was born about a quarter of a mile from where we are sitting now and I was here in London during the Blitz. And every night I went down into the shelter. 500 people killed, my brother was killed, my friends were killed. And when the Charter of the UN was read to me, I was a pilot coming home in a troop ship: ‘We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.’ That was the pledge my generation gave to the younger generation and you tore it up. And it’s a war crime that’s been committed in Iraq, because there is no moral difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber. Both kill innocent people for political reasons.” His sharp, analytical mind, his Socialist principles and his kindness to others will be much missed.
Tony Benn chose the poem, ‘Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep’ in the ‘With Great Pleasure’ programme. You can find it here where I posted the poem once before. It is one of my favourites, very beautiful and very apt for today.