I, like many South Africans, never had the honour of meeting Madiba. Yet I feel sad. I feel sad that someone this influential has left us, but I also feel a sense of relief for him and his family.
Because knowing that someone you love is in pain is hard to deal with. Knowing that there is nothing you can do for that person, and having to watch them suffer is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
I’ve mourned (and am still mourning) the loss of a father, and many other family members. And today I feel as sad as I did when they passed.
Does this make me seem insincere?
I remember watching a video of Charlize Theron when she met Nelson Mandela for the first time in 2004. She cried and told him she loved him.
And, at first, I thought she was just another celebrity buying into the premise of the Mandela legacy. “She’s only just met the man. How could she love him?” I thought.
But I was a teenager at the time and didn’t fully understand how much Tata Madiba had really done for us. I had learned about the Struggle in school, and knew all about his time in prison and what he stood for. But, like many of us millennial children, I had no struggle “baggage”.
I was born the year Mandela was released from prison. I was born into freedom. I didn’t have to witness the ugliness that was apartheid, and the things that great men and women like Madiba fought so hard to abolish.
So when Charlize met our former president, she wasn’t just meeting a legend. She was also meeting a symbol of hope who carried with him the unfairness that was pre-1994 in this country. But still smiled. Still had kind words to say. And still danced.
I understand now why Charlize was so overcome with emotion. I understand now because I feel loss for a man I have never met, but admired greatly.
A man who only wanted the world to become a better place, and whose name was associated with so many great things.
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