Final thoughts about Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s memorial Tuesday ended a five-day stretch that was more a celebration of a life supremely lived than a period of mourning.

More impressive to us than the pageantry of the gigantic ceremony Tuesday were the tales of Mandela’s capacity to forgive.

This weekend we watched as men who guarded Mandela during his incarceration at the infamous Robben Island prison told of being hired by the man after he was elected president. These enforcers of apartheid had tears in their eyes as they spoke of the man who went on to become the president of ALL South Africa.

We listened as one South African – white, incidentally – offered the opinion that if anyone other than Mandela had led the country when white rule and apartheid ended, the country would have fallen into civil war and chaos. The man thanked Mandela for not letting South Africa become another Syria or Afghanistan.

An interracial couple credited their president for making their marriage possible. The husband choked up as he told the reporter that without Mandela he would have been deprived of the love of his life.

Nelson Mandela was a unique blend of strength, kindness and courtesy. How anyone could have emerged from 27 years behind bars without bitterness is almost beyond belief. But while Mandela forgave his persecutors, he did not forget the persecution. That memory made him a champion for a free, united South Africa where everyone’s rights were protected.

More than one commentator noted that Mandela emerged from prison a better, stronger person for his ordeal.

Our final thought about Mandela was that one could see the heart of the man in his face. There was kindness in his eyes and tenderness in his smile.

South Africa and the world are lucky he made, survived and thrived through the arduous journey that was his life.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.