Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Born July 18,1918 – Passed December 5, 2013.
I am really really sad right now. Even though I wrote a blog just a couple months ago speaking of the remorse that I would feel upon Mandela’s death, I had no idea that I would be this sad at the news of his passing. I have already cried well past the point of my stomach hurting, and my breath being non-existant. And yet I still feel as though I could cry for hours. I’m not even entirely sure what I want to write about that I haven’t already said. I guess I’m looking for some comfort from the three or four of you who read these blogs, to share in some sadness, and to receive some help in getting to the place where I will rejoice in my memory of Mandela.
I’m reliving some of the days of my youth, from 1980-1990. The first time I remember hearing the word “Apartheid” was around 1980 at a speech of a human rights activist. I was 13, and just comprehending what injustice truly meant to me. By college, I was a hot-headed, protest leading, raging liberal bleeding heart, who knew everything and was intent on saving any and every oppressed, voiceless soul. I remember playing bongos at one of the many protest rallies on my college campus, decrying my schools investments in South Africa. That’s me with the oh-so-cool shades, and stylishly ripped jeans.
I remember the moment when I saw Mandela leaving prison. I was spending a semester abroad in Madrid, Spain. A friend and I were walking the streets one night, when passing by a department store that had televisions in the display windows, I saw Mandela walking out of prison. It was the first time that I had actually seen him. He was accompanied by then-President of South Africa, PW de Klerk, walking side by side. I remember being overwhelmed equally by the desire to whoop in celebration and cry in happiness. I just stared at the television screen, thinking of all the protests I’d taken part in; the educational programs I organized to inform more people on the injustices of Apartheid; remembering the hope-against-hope that Mandela would ever be free. And there he was…..
Mandela became one of the most beloved figures the world has ever known. His humanity, his humility, his honor of life and everyone regardless of race, gender, culture, religion, or class was a model for anyone. He was my hero. He was my Martin Luther King Jr., my Bobby Kennedy, my Malcolm X, my Dali Lama, my Gandhi. Losing Nelson Mandela is like losing a father (and I love my dad very much). I know that I will celebrate him and his legacy soon enough. Right now, I’m mourning.
Ya know the thing I’m happiest about? The fact that Mandela was able to live his life completely and died a dignified death at the hands of God, rather than by the bullet of an assassin’s gun. I thank God that he was not a martyr. We have too damn many of those. We didn’t need another one for whom we’d cry, “What if he were allowed to live……” Mandela did live. He lived several lives, actually, The one before prison. The one during prison. The one as President of South Africa. And the one as beloved icon, gently riding into the sunset. I am so damn happy that he fulfilled the destiny of one allowed to lead, live, and die on his own terms. I thank you, God, for allowing Mandela to live as long as he did. It meant an awful lot to millions, if not billions of people. Maybe in our future we will be able to know, cherish, and follow transcendent leaders such Mandela for a lifetime as opposed to a few tragically shortened years. That is certainly my hope.
So I’ll end this post feeling a bit better. I hope as I dream tonight, that I will see Mandela smiling his charateristically gentle smile, telling me and the world that we will be ok. I hope that we will all wake up tomorrow feeling more alive because of him and energized to make a difference in our world. To leave it better than we found it. To love one another despite, in spite and because of our differences. To never take anyone or anything for granted. And to truly appreciate this thing called life.
Thank you, Mr. Mandela. May you rest in peace.