“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”
- Nelson Mandela
The long walk to freedom has finally ended; Nelson Mandela now rests in peace.
In his life Nelson Mandela belonged to South Africa, he was the father of the Rainbow Nation; in death, the global icon, the conscience of his generation, belongs to the world. As South Africa prepares to lay to rest the country’s greatest son, the world joins his countrymen in grieving this profound loss to humanity.
Nelson Mandela has gone on to join the ranks of Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others in that rare pantheon of world leaders who were able to inspire and energize their people to freedom, dignity and equal rights through non-violence.
In many African customs people mourn through song, dance and music. As South Africa woke to news of Mandela’s death, crowds gathered outside his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton and at his old home in the city’s impoverished township in Soweto, singing church hymns and songs of the struggle against apartheid.
The mourning songs reflected the deep sense of loss felt across the country and the sadness in the realization that the man who worked his ‘Madiba Magic’ to free the nation from the shackles of apartheid and, by advocating reconciliation, prevented his nation from slipping into racial strife, was no more.
Burdened by remnants of racism, beset by centuries-old tribal feuds and stifled by pervading inequities and persistent poverty, the South Africa that Nelson Mandela leaves behind is far from perfect. While there are challenges to be overcome, there is no doubt that South Africa is a far better place today from having received the graciousness and gentle guiding touch of Madiba.
We as a people and society are blessed to live in a time that Nelson Mandela lived and led.