Every day someone else on Facebook posts a false media report stating that Nelson Mandela has died. As of today, he is still clinging to life, fighting to recover from a lung infection at the age of 94. I hope that he recovers and spends a little more time with his family and his country, if that is what he wishes. But if he does not recover, this is not a tragedy. The man is 94 years old and look at all he accomplished! I think the false reports of his death are evidence that people are rehearsing for the loss of him; practicing living in a world without a live Mandela, yet rich with his legacy.
I wonder if Mandela clings to life because of all the prayers engulfing him and all the wishes for his recovery swooping down on him from around the world. I wonder if he finds it difficult to transition when absorbing so much love and grief from so many people, so many spirits holding him in their embrace.
Ron and I hired a babysitter and went to the Oakland Coliseum in 1990 to see Mandela, just to be in his presence, to hear him speak. We and about 60,000 other people were there. To say his life is an inspiration is an understatement. He was the voice of truth and justice. He was silenced for 27 years while locked away at Robben Island. But it was the trial of his life there that forged him as the truly great leader needed by his country. I imagine him on Robben Island sometimes, I imagine him wondering if he would die there. I imagine him struggling to find a way to make use of his time; developing his philosophies about conflict resolution, mediation, healing the deep wounds of South Africa, and the power of forgiveness.
He lost everything. He came back from nothing. He was more than vindicated in his lifetime. Prisoner to President. So many of us in this life make our sacrifices, follow our passion, speak truth, take a chance, and believe that we will be one of the lucky ones who meets with success. How many dissidents have been murdered? Silenced? How many dreamers have shot the moon and then failed to achieve their dream? How many arrested and lost in prison? How many who do not achieve what they set out to do? Mandela is our symbol that sometimes it is possible for a man with enormous dreams to realize those dreams. He is our symbol of perseverance, triumph, the possibility that truth and justice will prevail in some instances. His journey, his success, his ability to overcome such overwhelming odds, inspires us to be the best that we can be. It inspires us to hope.
We don’t want to let that go. We don’t want to say good-bye to this extraordinary man, this leader, this visionary, this highly evolved spirit in our midst. I think Mandela has such a fully evolved spirit that no further evolution is needed for him in this life. If it is finally time for him to leave, then so be it. We must release him, let him go. He has already given humankind so much. Perhaps we should discontinue our prayers for his recovery and instead send prayers for a peaceful transition for this warrior for justice and equality. Perhaps he is ready to lay down his shield. I send him my love, and my wishes for whatever he wishes, for an end of his choosing, befitting the greatness of his spirit.