December 05th, 2013. Midnight, South Africa time. It will forever be a day when people across the world will remember exactly where they were, what they were doing, when they heard the news: President Nelson Mandela has died. 20:59, at home, with family by his side, at the age of 95.
We always knew the announcement would come in the middle of the night.
In a single moment the world was united, in text and email messages spreading the news, in tears expressing the ache. As stated by Christiane Amanpour, “it was a moment all South Africans were dreading.” It was a moment the world was dreading. Heads of state, heads of corporations, heads of news agencies. heads of households, the heads of people of South African and across the world, all dropped in sadness.
For many, the shock could not be articulated. They cried, unsure of why exactly they were crying. Tears simply falling… Grieving was felt deeply, for oneself, for others grieving.
Something monumental had been lost, something that brought a sense of security, faith, hope, discipline, meaning, even identity, was gone.
This was more than merely the passing of a politician, a figure of nearly a century’s worth of activism. This was the loss of a leader of universal love, respect, example and hope. A loss for every individual on earth who believed in the power of believing in something better, in the power of one, in the power of the possible.
For 10 days, South Africa was held in a state of emotional ache, the official 10 day grieving period unfolding with events that embraced all South Africans, and enthralled the millions upon millions of onlookers from across the globe. There was only one story. He is gone.
And yet, through all of the sense of loss, from the immediate moment of announcement of the passing of President Mandela, as stories were shared of the life of the father of the nation, the South African miracle was reawakened. South Africans and the world were reminded of, and re-inspired by, the miracle of South Africa’s political process, and of South Africans who, to this day, continue to work to live the legacy of the nation’s father, hero, compass. Sadness and celebration became a unifying cocktail, creating a spirit at home “like during the (2010 FIFA) World Cup” as one South African said reflecting on days just past. It felt good to be a South African, a child of Madiba. It felt good to feel pride, hope and appreciation again. It felt good to focus on the positive. It felt good to be inspired by an ideal.
In a way, it felt, feels, as though this reawakening of the spirit of South Africans was, in his final moments, Madiba’s parting gift to his people.
And now, as he rests in his ancestral home, amongst the aloes on the gentle grazing hills that have kept him grounded, reminiscent, yearning, all these years, the candles continue to burn. May they glow with unwavering warmth and determination. May the reminder of the miracle of South Africa, South Africans, keep his children, all 51 million of them, focused forward, with unity and upward focus that allows him to rest in peace, watching in quiet confidence from above.
The spirit of the miracle is awake again. It must not rest.