Honoring Nelson Mandela Who Taught the Value of Freedom From the First Day of Life Until the Last
By Val J. Halamandaris
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
– Nelson R. Mandela, 1918–2013
I join millions of people across the globe in lamenting the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela.
All of us mourn the loss of Nelson Mandela, who was a singular human being and one of the finest examples of God’s work. While we grieve this loss which impoverishes the entire human race, it is equally appropriate that we express our gratitude for the gift of his life, which was lived for others.
President Barack Obama aptly compared Mandela with Abraham Lincoln, our most respected heroic figure, by saying, ‘Now he belongs to the ages.’ I myself would paraphrase what Dr. Albert Einstein said on hearing of the death of Mahatma Gandhi: ‘Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.’
What Lincoln, Gandhi, and Mandela shared was their commitment to fight for freedom and the dignity of all human beings. President Mandela, after being jailed for 27 years in the Robben Island prison, found the courage to forgive his jailers. But he did not agree to continue being institutionalized in his final years when his strength began to wane. He was hospitalized in June because of a recurrent lung infection. By September he and his family made the decision to bring him home, to provide medical and personal care services for him in the place he loved most of all. Thanks to support from his family and home care workers, President Mandela died as he had lived. Until the very end, he enjoyed a maximum degree of the freedom he so much cherished and fought to extend to human beings throughout the world.
President Mandela taught us how to live and how to die. He reminded us that the pain and suffering of each and every human being can only be lessened by the love and caring of others. His example commends us to fight tirelessly to ensure that every American — indeed every citizen of the world—enjoys the same right to home care and hospice that he received.