"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time."
- Mark Twain
Thirty years, when I was still knee-high to a grasshopper, my paternal grandmother came from the village to stay with us in the city. Well, she had no choice really...she was very ill and my parents believed the only option open to them, was to give her the type of care which was in truth, impossible whilst she lived a hundred miles away.
A strident and ground-breaking female in her heyday, my grandmother had an attendant, inspiring spirit that radiated a strong sense of independence. So strong was her spirit, that we often joked no one could have brought her down to the city, had it not been for her descent into deteriorating health. As it happens, she steadily improved once she stayed with us and therein began a short period of bonding that stays with me to this very day.
I was on my summer holidays from boarding school and like every holiday before this one, my senses had gone into overdrive. Everything was more intense. My mother's food smelled and tasted better, my demonstration of love for my siblings was hyperbolic and my playful interactions with my neighbourhood friends always outstretched my curfew and my parents' patience. It never occured to me at the time, but the one person whose patience for me could neither be stretched nor fraught was, grandma. Consequently, I spent most of that summer listening to her stories and life lessons, as she expertly marinated me for the big world out there.
Suffice to say, as her health relapsed and the grim reaper moved ever closer to our residence, I fell into a deep period of mourning for an inevitable exit. In fact, so extreme was my bereavement I had completely blunted any possibility of immersing any meaningful teachings from the great woman. I ate less, cried more and became a proverbial pain in the rear for everyone around me. I didn't know at the time, but I was basically refusing to release her.
Had I known that a slow death of an elderly loved one, actually armed you with the strength to cope more easily when they were gone, I would have managed the process a bit better. Rather than grieve about a certain end, I could have spent those valuable hours celebrating her life and probably may have even extracted more poignant lessons, for they say the old are more giving when they sense the finish line.
Why am I sharing this private account with you all? Well, it is only those resident underneath rocks who are not aware of Nelson Mandela's current slow walk to the pearly gates. Of course, it is slightly morbid for one to predict another's demise, but sometimes, the forces of nature combine to alert us all to that period when we ought to reflect on a life (whilst that person is still with us), rather more mourn and dread their downward spiral.
Only a nincompoop will not realise why most people are in trepidation about Mandela's eventual passing. In truth, most of us are apprehensive for what will happen to the fragile peace that has bound South Africa for the last few decades. Some are apprehensive on the monumental vacuum which will be left behind and as such, are making plans to ease their cynical souls. Some cannot see how things will not fall apart, when the Falconer goes to the great beyond and leaves a somewhat nervous, edgy and jumpy cast of falcons behind. Our trouble is we only trusted one person.
Consequently, what nature is trying to teach us is to reach out to each other and leave the great one alone......he has to go, because he has played his part. Maybe everyone in the Cape have put all our eggs in one basket for too long and now have to learn to interact with each other. Like the spoilt child who has basked in their parents' shadows for too long, it is time for fly the coop. It is time to grow up and take over the lifting of the load burdened on one set of shoulders for so long.
My advice......collectively suck it up and get on with it. It is called life for a very good reason....no one gets out alive! As such, ala Shakespeare, we should not fear death or let it surprise us, for, it is a necessary end.