For Nelson Mandela: “The privilege was ours.”

Yesterday afternoon, I was walking to Oxford Circus to meet a friend when the grief finally hit me. I had been kidding myself that Nelson Mandela’s death wasn’t sad, really – he’d been ill for ages, and what’s more most people don’t make it to 95; especially those who fight for the freedom of their people. And then I thought: who was I kidding. It was absolutely heartbreaking. All that love and honour and glory and beauty just floating up, away and beyond. And, just on my way past the National Portrait Gallery on a bright December afternoon, my eyes were overrun with tears and I was grateful for the shadow of my woollen winter hat. Everyone who loved anything about Mandela will have their own fond thoughts about him. I tried to put some of mine into words, and these, below, are the only ones that came.

Your name is the best answer yet
To the question:
“How can you weep
For a man you never met?”
With your bare hands,
You carved freedom from stone:
You became a king
Long before they gave you a throne.
You gave self-respect to millions of fatherless men,
Made countless Africans find joy in their skin.
Rest in progress out there among the stars
And please remember
That the privilege was ours.


Comments are closed.