December 6, 2013

Thank You, Mr. Mandela.

Nelson Mandela died today, after a prolonged respiratory illness.

He was 95 years old, so he had lived an incredibly long and rich life, but the world is grieving for the loss of one of its heroes. He was someone who literally gave his life to making the world a better place, and although he would have been the first person to admit he was not perfect, there lay much of his charm: he was flawed, and yet filled with such heart and hope that positive change couldn’t help but eventually follow where he led.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

People will remember him for lots of things, for very good reason, but perhaps most of all for his time spent serving on Robben Island and how, after 27 years being imprisoned for defending the sanctity of human rights, he was able to be released without being embittered about his captors, the experience or the amount of time he had lived in jail.

“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

I cannot imagine what strength of human spirit someone would have to have in order to endure 27 years with only a half-an-hour visit from someone every year, only being allowed one letter every six months, to be isolated for so long and still, to forgive. To open up to the world after all that time to start over and over and over again.

Learning about how Madiba was imprisoned, and why he was imprisoned and for long he had been imprisoned for, was at age nine, a huge wake-up call for me.

It was my first indication that, just because you were wonderful and did humbling things for the good of your fellow human beings, didn’t mean the bad guys wouldn’t get you. And keep you.

But of course they didn’t keep him, not really.

His spirit was never anything that could be contained. Neither are any of ours. For me, that is the lesson I will try to keep close, but for now, I’ll grieve the passing of an incredible light.

Rest in peace, Mr. Mandela. We will miss your heart.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons}

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