Last night, while I was up late, catching up on the the blog challenge, I noticed #mandela trending on Twitter and gut instinct told me that this was serious. Before I knew it, banners were flashing up on the TV screen saying that President Zuma was going to be making an announcement of national importance imminently. I was sure I knew what the news would be. And it was. The inevitable had happened. Madiba passed away at 8:50pm. Tears started falling as I listened to Zuma’s speech. For the next three hours, I alternated between watching the news channels, listening to the radio (Gareth Cliff on 5fm doing an amazing job) and following the news feeds on Facebook and Twitter.
One of my memories of growing up was that when tragedies hit, perhaps an aunt or uncle passed away, our scattered family would immediately gather. Copious pots of tea would be made, people would cry and laugh and remember. I wanted that last night. I was the only person awake at home last night and I desperately wanted to talk to someone and was relieved when I saw my sisters awake and online to chat with.
I eventually fell asleep and awoke early when I heard Nick stirring next to me. I told him the news and we chatted briefly. I fell asleep again and woke up a little later and shared the sad news with the kids. Claire’s response was simple and wise. She said that it was sad but the right time because he was old and sick. And old and sick people die. Ewan has been watching the various news items on and off the whole day. I think he has more understanding of the significance of Madiba in our South African story. He asked me earlier if Apartheid would happen again now that Madiba was gone.
I’ve been trying to follow as much media as possible today. I have this odd need to soak it all in. The sense of living through an important historic moment. I’ve listened to people calling in on various radio stations with their stories of having personally met the man. I never had the privilege but I do gave my own silly personal Madiba story…
It was in the late 90’s and I was at work in downtown Johannesburg CBD. I popped out for lunch and got caught up in a crowd that had stopped on the side of the road for an entourage of official vehicles to pass. Madiba was in one of the big black cars and I saw him smiling at waving. I was quite unintentionally at the front of the crowd and I felt like we made eye contact and he had waved personally at me. Sounds so silly in retrospect, but I bounded back to the office so excited to have seen the man in person!
I spent much of today feeling sad and teary. And patriotic. I sincerely hope that the unity that we feel in the mourning of his death is the unity that can help us make SA as great as it could be.
And on that optimistic note, I plan to go to bed and try and catch up on the sleep that didn’t come easily last night.
Rest peacefully Madiba.