Tessa has already written about our family’s trip a year ago, when we received the news of Nelson Mandela’s death. As Tessa mentions in her post we were on our way to Cape Town when ‘Tata [Father] Madiba’ died. The kids and I had not yet been to Cape Town and Tessa’s travels in Cape Town had been in relationship to her work with YAGM (Young Adults in Global Mission) so we ‘took in some of the sights’. For example, we went down to the pier in Cape Town. Surrounded by relatively upscale shopping and sight-seeing that clearly appeals to tourists from around the country and around the world, in many ways the V & A Waterfront could be in any of a number of international port destinations. It was here that we came across one of the condolence books.
After Mandela’s death condolence books were made available in numerous locations both in the country and across the globe. Even walking towards the book felt momentous. I think this might have been especially so since I was walking with Isaac and Sophia. I can imagine them remembering this moment for the rest of their lives. I remember not knowing what to write and I can’t remember what I ended up writing on behalf of our family. I remember asking the kids if there was anything they thought I should write and I remember that we read a few of the recent entries in the book. I remember that even within a few entries previous to the one I was to write I could see several continents, cultures and languages represented. I also remember that the messages had multiple audiences. Some people wrote to Mandela, some to his family, some to the country, some to the world and some to themselves or some combination of these. We were with the book for several minutes as there was no long line and we had no particular sense of urgency.
I’m struggling to find words for this blog post just as I did when I was sitting with the condolence book. All sorts of cliches come to mind: death is a part of life; Mandela’s legacy lives on; there is still work to be done; he was a great man; we will never forget that day. These are all true and yet they are insufficient. So I will share with you the picture below and a link to an online condolence book so that you might hear many words from many voices. I will share more of our experiences of these days following Mandela’s death in a few more upcoming blog posts. I’d also like to write about the church service we attended, visiting Robben Island and conversations with South Africans of the ‘born-free’ generation.