Nelson Mandela30 June 2013

I’m writing this from Port Elizabeth in South Africa, on my way to Umtata in the beautiful east coast of South Africa to do some corporate work this week.  The last time I visited this part of the world was almost 40 years ago and I’m excited to see it through my adult eyes.

Shortly after I started putting out my intention to bring much needed leadership and emotional intelligence training to the business world, “out of the blue” an invitation came to do just that.  Don’t you just love it when that happens? (And of course it makes perfect sense when you understand conscious creation!)

President Barack Obama is currently visiting Cape Town and today at the airport scores of people were staring at his 3 (yes, 3) blue and white planes with “The United States of America” emblazoned on the side and a few (what looks like) military planes, all parked and seemingly just sitting there waiting for their master to return.  Looking at the people staring through the windows they reminded me of the one and only time I ever watched a Big Brother episode, mesmerized by the absolutely nothing happening yet unable to tear myself away in case I’d miss something 🙂  I heard that he also has 14 cars and a ‘handful’ of helicopters here – what a strange world we have created for ourselves!

Something else that fascinated me this week was the media coverage around old-president Nelson Mandela’s illness.  One day the newspapers suggested that he was practically dead, the next day, apparently, he was ready to jump out of bed and start his ‘next 94 years’ and now, again, the media tell us that he is being kept alive by machines.  There have even been some suggestions that he be kept alive for another month so that he’ll reach his 95th birthday.

Hearing people talk about this led me to wonder about death, and people’s apparent discomfort with this phenomenon that, as far as I can tell, awaits us all.  People’s way of dealing with the idea of death always interests – if slightly perplexes – me, as does the common apparent contradiction of doing whatever it takes to live longer (stopping smoking, doing exercise and eating salads) whilst at the same time being apparently dead set (pun intended) on killing ourselves by stressing about the most trivial things, working all hours of the night and day, using microwave ovens and eating sugar.  I suppose that’s all part of the human journey!

I love the ingenious ways we use language to avoid using the word ‘died’; we say that people have crossed over, passed away, gone to meet their maker, gone to ‘the other’ side etc.  (Just like we use anything but the given names for our private parts or some bodily functions – that’s a blog in itself, another day!)

I’m also fascinated by our tendency to live as if we have the rest of our lives to stop doing what we don’t like and that most of us still believe that ‘one day’ we will have more time, get to do what we love, and enjoy every moment, in the moment.

That’s true, of course – we DO have the rest of our lives; we just have no idea how long the ‘rest of our lives’ are.

I cannot say that I’ve always been comfortable around death; I remember being devastated when my grandmother died when I was 13 and I couldn’t’ really talk to anyone about it; in those years few families were geared up help children (or even adults!) deal with death in a meaningful way –and I cannot but wonder if this has changed in the last 30 years.

I guess that as I grew older on a seemingly never-ending spiritual journey and determination to make sense of my life, and having visited some very dark places along the way, I gradually make peace with my (and others’) mortality.  Because of my acceptance of the inevitable result of life (i.e. death), the concept of being kept alive by machines seem at best strange and at worst, absurd.  We know that our time on this planet is finite so when it’s time to go, surely it’s time to go!? (Dear family – please take note!)

Mandela had a full life and literally changed the face of this country.   He did what I believe few people could do – by (at least in some ways) uniting a country divided by a violent history of separation.  Like others, I too have wished that he was 30 years younger when he was set free from prison as I imagine how much more good he’d have been able to do.

The truth is that he wasn’t 30 years younger.

The truth is that he is 94 now.

He served well and saw a lot of the fruit of his loving labour.  He wasn’t able to, nor ever claimed that he was able to, solve all this countries problems – and still, I believe that we have a lot to thank him for.  He is and will continue to be a role model for millions for generations to come.

I say … let us let him go in peace, with gratitude, and love.  He may recover and he may not, that is not for anyone else to decide.

We can never know when it’s someone‘s  time to die; whatever your beliefs about death, dying, or the possibility of an after-life, we can never understand the delicious intricacies of determining when someone else’s time is up.  So if you believe in prayer, whatever your religion, why not send him a simple prayer of gratitude, love and kindness, wishing him well on his journey, however much longer he’ll be around.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – thank you a million times for what you modeled by example in the last part of your life – travel well, bless you and thank you.

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