Yesterday, December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela passed from this life to the next. He was 95 years old and probably ready to retire his body. He had used it to the fullest, as a husband, father, heavyweight boxer, and most importantly, as a promoter of peace.
Upon his death, media outlets and social networking sites were ablaze with the news, pictures, quotes, and postings for the icon to rest in peace. People are posting about Mandela as they would a close friend, someone who intimately touched their lives. And, perhaps he did. This man who promoted peace, justice, and the antithesis of hate, Love.
But why did we wait until now to talk about him so much? If we really believe in his life’s work to spread peace, why haven’t we been sharing his quotes regularly? Nelson Mandela lived in such a way as to prove one person really can make a difference. One person can start a movement to change the way the world thinks. Several generations were able to witness his work firsthand and now we will pass his legacy to the history books. If we were to truly honor and memorialize this man, his work, his passion, we would live for peace and goodness everyday.
Isn’t that the way of it, though? When people die, we often idealize them, remember stories of how great they were, gloss over their failures and faults, and share how we knew them intimately. Why wait? Shouldn’t we treat one another today the way we will talk about each other after one of us is gone? Be it friends, family, acquaintances, or cultural icons. If you mean so much to me, I should put you on a pedestal now and tell you directly how I feel, rather than wait until you’re the very audience who will miss my message of how great you are.
If you have inspired me to live my life differently, what an honor it would be to show you by acting on it now. My dad would probably rather his daughter live a life of integrity and hard work while he can see it from this side of heaven. Instead of submitting a beautiful eulogy for the English teacher who inspired me to write, I should express my gratitude to her now. To the elderly gentleman who sings in my church choir, when you pass away, I’ll surely be sad and remember how kind you were; how good would it be if this Sunday, I look you in the eye and remind you how very loved you are.
Mr. Mandela, thank you for your message of peace. Thank you for giving of your heart and your life to bring about real and necessary change in this world. As we honor and remember you, I hope we all stand behind your words as we quote them. May peace, God’s peace, pour over this earth and reign forever.
“If I had my time over I would do the same again.
So would any man who dares call himself a man.”
Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)
“The way of the world is to praise dead saints, and persecute living ones.” — Nathaniel Howe