The Healer: Moving an Entire Nation

One person’s act of forgiveness can sometimes move an entire nation.

On Sunday, November 8, 1987, Gordon Wilson and his twenty-year-old daughter Marie were laying a wreath for the war dead at Enniskillen in Northern Ireland when a bomb exploded.

Wilson lay buried under several feet of rubble, fumbling for his glasses, his shoulder dislocated. His daughter lay beside him dying. Later that evening, in an interview with the BBC, Wilson described with anguish his last conversation with his daughter and his feelings toward her killers:

“She held my hand tightly, and gripped me as hard as she could. She said, ‘Daddy, I love you very much.’ Those were her exact words to me, and those were the last words I ever heard her say.” To the astonishment of listeners, Wilson went on to add, “But I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She was a great wee lassie. She loved her profession. She was a pet. She’s dead. She’s in Heaven and we shall meet again.”

As historian Jonathan Bardon recounts, “No words in more than twenty-five years of violence in Northern Ireland have had such a powerful, emotional impact.” In a few words, Gordon Wilson had spoken for all those on both sides who had lost family and friends – and had furthered for many the slow painful process of healing.

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