Soon, Nelson Mandela will die. As I write this post traditional and social media channels are rife with rumours of his ill health and deteriorating state. This day was always going to come.
When he dies messages of condolence and sympathy will flood in. Wreaths will be laid, memorial services will be held and millions, maybe billions of people around the world will mourn one of the greatest men who ever lived. His life – and more specifically the actions that shaped his life – have earned such a send-off.
Last week Friday I was called to Benoni after my gran passed away in the company of the people she loved most. She was 89, and had lived a most remarkable life. This was no more evident than in her funeral on Wednesday – an event that was not clouded by regret, but illuminated by celebration. Her life was such that she had no unfinished business.
She was gracious beyond reason. She faced every challenge that life threw at her – two bouts of cancer, a World War, the loss of her husband after only 7 years of marriage – with admirable strength and resolve, and an unshakeable faith that anchored it all in place.
I see so many parallels in the grace she showed others, and the gratitude she expressed for every moment she had on this earth, to the life of Nelson Mandela. It’s not for their achievements that we hold these special people in such high esteem – it’s for their actions. Actions that fly in the face of what the world tells us is right, or normal. Actions that defy logic. Actions that change the fabric of society.
When Madiba dies… wait, screw that… BEFORE Madiba dies, seek to honour him and those that are like him in this world by not just sending out a compassionate tweet, or updating your Facebook status to “RIP Tata”. Seek to honour him by ACTING abnormally. ACT with grace, compassion and forgiveness:
Write that letter to that person who you need to make peace with.
Smile at strangers.
Give something away – something that is of value to you.
Stop collecting things and start collecting memories.
Love without fear.
I figure if I can do these things, if I can change the way I act and be just a little more like the kind of person Nelson Mandela is, and my gran was, then I am truly honouring them. The minister who officiated my gran’s funeral said, “people only die when we stop talking about them”. The lives of my gran and Nelson Mandela will best be honoured when we try and act like them.