A little while ago, I wrote a piece. I didn’t quite know where I’d use it or if I actually ever would. But today we stand with a heaviness on our hearts as we pay homage to a true icon, an example of real humanity, a gracious leader but most of all, the symbol of our Freedom as South Africans – no matter where we find ourselves in the world.
My days seems to be a complete blur of words at the moment. Press, Social Media, Emails, everything – everyone is trying to use their words to capture a person who, quite simply, was so large that words, just simply, cannot explain or define.
I woke up this week telling my Englishman, “This is when I miss being home, the most”. I want to grieve alongside my people. I want to share in that Ubuntu. And even as I sit here and try to make sense of my thoughts and the words I’m trying to formulate, I’m muddled with sadness, pride, humility, anger. I stream my favourite South African station while I try to work.
As the day unfolds, and my mind makes sense of the expanse of messages and words of sympathy flooding my visual world from every corner of this Earth, it hits me that I am anything but alone in my solitary world – and that the embodiment that is Madiba, touched hearts of nations – and at once, I do feel part of a cause between these 4 white walls of post-it notes, empty coffee cups, empty printing cartridges and a heater that is working overtime to defrost my toes. And I am filled with admiration at a life that didn’t mean to become anything more than he was, but in doing that – became one of the greatest examples of grace that this world has ever known. And my sadness at being away from home melts into a heated pride.
So here’s what I wrote – my attempt to make sense, using my words.
Last night, I lay awake. Husband snoring next to me, cat taking up 75% of my side of the bed, iPad resting on my chest. Twitter page open and, as if robotic, as if programmed, the old familiar swiiiiish PLOP sound keeps me company as I read one tweet after the next, that capture 1 single search term:
Father of our nation. Democratic Giant. Fighter of our Faith. Hero of our human rights. Peace-maker. Peace-keeper.
Like most other South Africans in this world, and I’m sure not only South Africans, but supporters all over the world, I spent most of last night with my eyes fixed to news reports and social media discussions. How I longed to be in my home country and feel that same communal spirit we felt as a united people – the day Francois Pienaar held that Rugby World Cup trophy in the air… the day we all, black, white, pink and blue, took to the streets dancing, singing, holding on to each other; for what that trophy represented, was so much more than just the win at a rugby match. It was so much more than supporting our boys in their green and gold. It represented that for the first time, since our first steps as a democratic and free country, we could stand together – united – legally – and we could celebrate. We could recognise our differences, we could praise our similarities, but most of all, we could celebrate in the knowledge that, as a nation, we had faced what the world had deemed “brink of civil war” and we had stood up, shoved it in the face of the doom-sayers and said, “We are South Africa. Hear us roar!”.
I lay awake reading the tweets. Tears streaming down my already damp cheeks.
So in this quiet moment of turmoil, and feeling a million miles away from the nation I love, the culture I drink up, my family, my friends – in this quiet turmoil feeling completely alone and insignificant, I took solace in my Twitter community who, where the prognosis was nothing but despair, echoed my dreary heart and broadcasted words of wisdom, celebration, praise, and most of all, gratitude.
And I feel loved.
Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika.
“He not only freed the oppressed. He freed the oppressor. And that makes him incredibly powerful.”