I wrote this post in June when we were all worried we might lose Nelson Mandela. Now we did. Now we mourn him. When we are less sad, we will celebrate the life of a hero who taught this angry world what it was like not to hate.
As my young child sits next to me reading her book, I scan twitter for news of Nelson Mandela. I am anxious that his health might suddenly deteriorate and then I don’t know what wave of grief will befall so many of us around the world- those of us who are lucky to have lived at the same time as the great man lying in a hospital bed in South Africa fighting for his life. For me and so many of the people I know, it is a privilege to share the same earth, to breathe the same air, to co-exist with a man that came to resemble so much of what is good about us humans.
As I look at my daughter’s young face, I somehow feel sorry for her growing up in a world that is devoid of real heroes. The young people of our present days are aimless, frustrated, full of pent-up energy that is directed randomly at causes they are aching to support but don’t know how or why, a generation of disillusionment, disenchantment, a generation raised on conspiracy theories, banking scandals, wikileaks, PRISM, and so much deceit by those in power.
But we had Mandela. No matter what eventual revisionists may unearth to point out mistakes he made, it would only make him human, fallible, and that much more revered and respected for what he could accomplish. When a story like Madiba’s comes to be once upon a human history, the effect is so deep, it changes the world in which that person lived. He has shown without a doubt that a great leader is the one that embraces the higher values of our humanity, the noble traits that make us the race we hope to be. He showed us the way to make peace after much hate, with forgiveness, with grace, with dialogue, with humility and with that smile that lights up our dreams of a better tomorrow.
No, we are not ready to let go of him. He is much larger than an ailing 94-year-old ex President and Nobel Prize laureate. He is larger than his country, much larger than his continent. No one can contain the legend of the man in one book, or one movie, or one series to teach generations to come about who Mandela the man and the leader was. Grandmothers will tell their grandchildren for generations to come about that wise South African man who inspired a planet. He is sick, the world prays for him, we wonder what the world will be like without its last hero.
We are not letting go. We need the reassurance that someone like him still exists in our world, our troubled hate-filled world where so-called leaders butcher their people, where killings and more killings are daily occurences and where peace is but a far-fetched notion. We need the security of knowing that our old sage is still here, like a prayer book we know is there when we need inspiration and strength. It makes us believe that the world will not go to bits if he’s in it.
Don’t leave yet. It’ll be such a sad place without you.