In memory: Dr Paul Wilkins 2/11/46-24/8/22
Dr Paul Wilkins 2/11/46-24/8/22
This week we said goodbye to a major figure in the person-centred world as Paul Wilkins slipped gently away from us on Wednesday. He is known to so many people through his work, whether it be his many books and papers, his support of research, his teaching, his conference speeches, his editing roles, his participation in groups, or any of the other many contributions he has made. As well as a person-centred therapist and supervisor, he was a psychodramatist and an academic, interested in creative approaches to therapeutic work and supervision, amongst many other things. He was also known in the professional community for his love of dancing and colourful trousers.
Since announcing his death on Wednesday, I have been inundated with messages from people whose lives Paul touched in deep and lasting ways. People ranging from ex-students to co-authors, dancing partners to old flames, but always friends. People reaching out to tell me what a difference he made to them, how much his writing helped them with their training, how much he encouraged them to pursue their dreams, how he helped people to believe in themselves. People talk about how open-hearted, supportive, generous with his time and knowledge, and understanding he was. People tell me how he touched their lives and their hearts. He truly lived out his person-centred values.
When I first met Paul, I asked him to be my writing mentor. He agreed, then wondered aloud if he might regret that, but decided to go ahead anyway. Within just a few short weeks we realised we had fallen in love with each other, but he never stopped mentoring me, offering me support, encouragement, and giving a critical editorial eye to anything I wrote. I don’t think he did regret it in the end, given that we have been co-authoring a book together this year – something of a test of our relationship at times!
There was so much more to Paul than his professional life, though. Before becoming a therapist he had worn many hats, including being a bin man, a weights and measures inspector, a market stallholder selling antiques, and had even helped a thatcher. He failed his A Levels and became a student gardener, then went to uni to study botany. He started two PhDs he didn’t bother to complete. He loved plants and flowers and butterflies, and had been a very keen birder since being 8 years old – we could never go for a walk without his binoculars round his neck. He loved music, especially classical, folk and jazz, and had acted for a while with an amateur company in his youth (famously alongside Anthony Daniels - the actor who originally played C3PO – with whom he had a well-remembered altercation!). He was keen on Science Fiction and fantasy, and we shared a love of books such as The Lord of the Rings and The Little Prince. He was a real foodie (he once made me pheasant sandwiches for my train journey home) and loved good wine and good company. He enjoyed crying at Call the Midwife, and whether we were together or apart, we would have “date night” to watch Strictly together every weekend. We would go to the park at dusk to look for bats, and dance round the lake. He would send me the Ten Poems booklets about things I loved. We laughed, all the time. He created a garden for me on my little patio, and bought a fuschia for both our gardens because it was a variety with my name.
He was a nurturer, through and through, whether it was feeding the birds in his wonderful garden, encouraging and supporting students and supervisees, or feeding someone pheasant sandwiches! He taught me how to be more present, enjoying the birds and the flowers, and met me with a level of love and acceptance I had never known before. He could be obstinate and complex and sometimes simply bloody-minded, but he was loyal and steadfast, and the friends he made stayed around for ever.
The PCA worldwide community has lost a giant; others have lost a cousin, father, grandfather, mentor and true friend. I have lost my soulmate. I celebrate that before I lost him, though, I had found him.
“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure . . .”
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.
Paula J Williams, 27/8/22