No one wants to see the hero of any story die. We all want them to be victorious and to 'live forever', at least in our hearts. But the only hero that remains immortal are those born of comic books and movies.
The everyday, 'human' hero who must one day die seems to hit humanity the hardest when that day eventually comes. It's as if we have put them on a pedestal of immortality because they have changed how we see the world, because they are the change for the world.
With the recent news that Nelson Mandela, 94, has been hospitalised, it seems as though the media are not ready to let him die. Does this mean humanity is not ready to let him die when his time comes? I suspect it will be sooner rather than later, too.
What does it mean when the hero dies? To me it would be the loss of victory, but Nelson Mandela has won many victories, most of which are extraordinary! So, it can't be that we need him to continue winning his battles. Death is not a battle that even he can win. The way he is portrayed in the news right now seems as though no one has prepared for the inevitable.
'The country must not panic, Madiba is fine,' Zuma told the BBC, referring to South Africa's first black president by his clan name.
The country must not panic?...well, hmm...prepare them first and they won't need to panic...
I believe the world would do well to begin accepting that one of our most influential people of modern history will die, and not too long from now. It could be days, it could be a few more years, but realistically, Nelson Mandela will likely die before too long. And humanity's heart needs to prepare for the grieving. This grief will be big enough without complicating it by living in denial.
I would be lovely to see a Living Eulogy in his honour, while he is still alive to appreciate it. It would be lovely to let him know just how much he has impacted our world...now...not after he dies, although I'm sure he's aware of his impact! A living eulogy prepares everyone for the inevitable. When people are prepared, their reaction is lessened, but not removed,
With the exception of sudden death, most people have the luxury of time to prepare for the deaths of those around them. Imagining my parent's deaths well before their time helped me find closure long before it was needed. It also cleared the way for meaningful interactions with them rather than holding in my unexpressed feelings.
When my dad died 5 years ago, at the age of 74, I felt relief for him in his life and was able to let him go with peace and love. He will remain in my heart for as long as I am alive. Had I not finished the unfinished with him it would have deeply upset me that I couldn't do that with him directly. I watched this happen with my mum and her dad and didn't want that for me and my parents.
My mum, 78, is still very much alive and we are both well aware of cherishing each moment we have together. When we have a miscommunication it gets dealt with right away. When we finish our Skype chats we give each other virtual hugs with plenty of 'I love you's'. I know she's going to die, maybe not soon, but sooner rather than later and, in the same way as my dad, I am prepared. I will be deeply sad. I will grieve. I will miss her...and then I will remember that she's always in my heart for as long as I am alive.
In the quote at the top of the page, Nelson refers to death as despair, and as a young imprisoned leader, I agree it would have been despairing to die. However, his steely determination and optimistic attitude kept him from dying in prison. It is what is needed in times such as this, but when death is the result of a life lived fully to its' natural end then acceptance is the order of the day. Despairing of a life that has loved and lived well is only apparent when all is not said or felt for the family and friends who continue to live. Nelson Mandela has had an incredible life and most of humanity has travelled right by his side, winning when he won and crying alongside his grief...but the next step, when he finally dies, will be ours to experience alone. Nelson Mandela will die. Our everyday hero's big and small will die...eventually. But our memories won't and the messages they gave us will forever remain in our hearts.
As you ponder his eventual death, how will you remember Matiba? How will you keep the memory of Mandela in your hearts? How will you be the change in your world, much as he has been in his and our world?
I am passionately yours for another day,
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