Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Long vigil captivates Mandela's admirers

  • Print

As Nelson Mandela lingers in a hospital, yet another remarkable moment is helping to seal his legacy: Millions of people around the world, united by respect and gratitude, are preparing for this beloved man to die.

The preparations take many forms: Prayers and vigils, pictures and candles, headlines and YouTube videos. All are measurements of his legend, and yet as the 94-year-old Mandela's hospitalization continues, the anticipation has left many caught in an awkward limbo, sharing on a global scale what is usually a private scenario.

There is no one in the world like Mandela -- a victim who both governed and forgave his tormentors, a figure so universally admired his countless honours include both America's Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Soviet Union's Order of Lenin.

So as the days have passed since his hospitalization on June 8 his vigil, too, has been unique.

The world is waiting to honour the man who proved the power of unity and forgiveness, said Lori Brown, a sociology professor at Meredith College in North Carolina.

"It is possible to honour him while he is alive, but the massive funeral, the media focus on his entire life, the showing of video clips of his speeches, the reading of his writings, these are all part of what we sociologists call rites of passage," she said.

"His death will allow for not only global grieving of his passing but a global celebration of his life," she said. "The world will own his memory, while right now his illness and life are more private and 'owned' by his family."

Everywhere, families know this type of personal experience. They grapple with the belief the end is near and with reluctance to speak of it. They measure their respect for life against the desire for an incapacitated loved one to be freed from it.

Now this struggle is playing out for members of the world family who treasure Mandela's story.

"There's something very uncomfortable about the waiting," said Robert Kraft, a psychology professor at Otterbein University in Ohio and author of an upcoming book on South Africa.

Even thinking about "closure" at a moment like this, he said, "is extremely uncomfortable for someone we love."

Preparations are most difficult and visible in South Africa, where Mandela led a peaceful transition from racist white rule to a democratically elected government, which he headed. There have been nationwide prayers, tokens of support left in makeshift shrines -- and throngs upon throngs of media.

Said Makaziwe Mandela, one of Mandela's daughters, of the media glare: "It's like truly vultures waiting when a lion has devoured a buffalo, waiting there for the last carcasses. That's the image that we have, as a family."

Later, Mandela's ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, said: "If we sometimes sound bitter, it is because we are dealing with a very difficult situation. You can understand our emotions."

"I think he is one of the truly great people of the last 100 years," said Kraft. "It's not as if a somewhat lesser person is dying, or a beloved celebrity is dying. "We are aware that greatness is going to be gone."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 30, 2013 A7

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Key of Bart - Take It Easy

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada goose makes takes flight on Wilkes Ave Friday afternoon- See Bryksa’s 30 Day goose a day challenge- Day 09- May 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • June 25, 2013 - 130625  -  A storm lit up Winnipeg Tuesday, June 25, 2013. John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press - lightning

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Manitoba support the transport of nuclear waste through the province?

View Results

Ads by Google