Last night, on the 5th December 2013, the world lost one of the greatest men it has ever known. At the ripe old age of 95, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, known as “Mandiba” by his clansman, passed away in his home, after a lung infection had kept him bed bound for nearly three years.
Still reeling from the death of ‘Fast and furious’ star Paul Walker, who tragically died in a car accident at age 40; the news of this brought considerable shock, immense grief but also, peace. A quiet stillness of knowing such an iconic man had lived out all the years God had given him to the absolute fullest; had done more for his country and the entire world than one could possibly ask of anyone and died at his own home, surrounded by friends and family, leaving behind a great legacy unmatched by any historical or political figure.
So today, I wanted to talk about this word: Legacy. Over the recent few years, I’ve seen close friends and loved ones lose someone close to them and the emotions and effect it has on not just them, but all the lives that person had touched. Even if you just happen to be standing in a near vicinity, death has a powerful presence. Thus, I started to question, as anyone who has suffered a loss also might, what was the point of it all? What is the reason for bringing someone into our lives who has such a deep impact that their departure inevitably leaves a hole in us that is impossible to fill? What is the point of bringing joy to someone’s lives when that joy is met with even greater sorrow when they pass away?
And that led me to this fascinating concept of legacy. Every small difference someone makes in your life, whether its teaching you how to ride a bike, showing you an easier way to file your taxes or even inspiring you to stand up for what you believe in, it makes an imprint on your character or tendencies. I have a friend who drilled into me the importance of always writing a title at the top of a page before making notes and underlining it, specifically in red pen. Since then, whenever I study, I always keep a ruler and a red pen nearby, its become a habit. A small example, but even in the little things, this is how we leave our legacies. And the good thing about legacies is that even though our body may pass away and our souls may travel into another realm, our legacy will forever live on.
Nelson Mandela was man of great kindness and compassion. After being jailed for 27 years (18 of those spent in solitary confinement) for working to overthrow the horrible regime of ‘Apartheid’ in South Africa, he came out, not only without a single shred of bitterness, but also with a greater determination to unite all the races in his country and make South Africa a peaceful place to live. He set an example for world leaders everywhere and was an inspiration to all, not least of all Barack Obama, who remarked that his first ever political act was to protest against the apartheid, studying Mandela’s speeches and activism in doing so. He was that rare combination of intelligent politician; a man of great integrity and a charismatic leader who knew that the first rule of leadership was to serve.
His legacy is peace. His legacy is forgiveness. His legacy is sacrifice. He was a humble, funny man of great character and I think the best way to honour his death is to forever remember his legacy. Reflect on what his example has taught you and how it could possibly shape you into a better person. And ensure in every interaction you have with another person, you are leaving the greatest possible legacy you can.
Gone but never forgotten, Mr Mandela. Rus in vrede