I remember the day Nelson Mandela visited my high school. I remember how his voice sounded like waves breaking on Robben Island’s jagged rocks, how his eyes trembled like a scarred hand digging in the dirt, and how his smile was fragile and beautiful and infinite. I was just a teenager living in a small town at the foot of Africa, but Mandela’s presence on that autumn day made me believe in greatness.
Today, a decade later, Nelson Mandela lies in a hospital bed surrounded by friends and family. He is reaching the end of his long walk to freedom, but we don’t want to say goodbye. We still want to thank him for his forgiveness and courage. We want to kiss him on his forehead and whisper in his ear that everything will be okay. We want to love him for just one more hour, one more day, and one more week. We want to hold his hand while he waits for the final sunset.
But there might not be enough time.
According to The Citizen newspaper, “Five highly placed sources who confirmed that Mandela is breathing with the assistance of a life support ventilator”. An insider source also revealed, “He is on a ventilation life support and his kidney function is very low. He is critical, but has an entire team of doctors, from a cardiac specialist, pulmonary specialist, kidney specialist and a main consultant looking after him.”
This morning children played and prayed in the streets, candles flickered in the wind, and a single balloon was released too soon. But as the day draws to a close we’re still uncertain whether this will be our final sunset with Madiba.
The child is not dead
not at Langa nor at Nyanga
not at Orlando nor at Sharpeville
nor at the police station at Philippi.
the child grown to a man treks through all Africa
the child grown into a giant journeys through the whole world
Without a pass
Distilled from The Child Is Not Dead by Ingrid Jonker