A Tale of Two Funerals

It was a beautiful day, it was a terrible day.  It was a day of celebration, it was a day of mourning.  It was a day of great joy, it was a day of deepest grief.

There were two funerals in South Africa on Tuesday.  One was for a great man who had touched the lives of millions.  He had passed away at a ripe old age, having achieved in his lifetime what he had set out to do.  He died peacefully in his bed, surrounded by his loved ones.  And while we are all sad that he is now gone, Tuesday was marked by a spirit of celebration as we remembered a man the like of which comes around perhaps once in a generation, if we’re lucky.

The other funeral was for a mother and daughter who were violently ripped from this earth in a senseless accident on the highway.  Their deaths were sudden and unexpected, their lives incomplete.  There was no celebration at their funeral.  Instead, there was wailing and sobbing, and the daughter’s former colleagues singing hymns as the coffin descended into the Earth to remind her loved ones and themselves that God was there, even if it didn’t feel like He was.

I attended the other funeral.   Continue reading

Rest in Peace, Tata Madiba

By now you’ve probably heard the news that Nelson Mandela has died at 95 years of age.  I’m sure many will write tributes in the days to come.  I’ve already seen a few, with at least one turning it into a soapbox to criticise our current government and others rushing to point out that Mr Mandela had been a terrorist in his early life, thus hardly deserving of our tribute and respect.  This saddens me, for though he was far from perfect, he was still a great man in the way that very few men in history have been. Continue reading

On South Africa – land of many tongues

Goeiemôre, good morning, dumela, molo, sawubona, salibonani, ndi matseloni, avuxeni, ǃGãi tses, goedendag, bonjour, bom dia, guten Tag, hari yang baik, subaha acchā, subha-ba-khair, marHaban, shalom, Zǎo ān and nzuri asubuhi.

No, I’m not swearing at you.  Today we celebrate Heritage Day in South Africa.  Our country is incredibly diverse in terms of cultures, histories, religions, languages and natural heritage.  The purpose of today is to remember and celebrate who we are and where we come from.

South African flag heritage day

One of the most obvious signs of diversity in our country is in the languages we speak.  To start with, we have eleven official languages protected by our constitution.  Several of those eleven languages have various dialects and there are a couple of pidgin languages as well, combining several official languages into one.  And I don’t even know how many other languages are spoken here, either by descendants of the original European settlers or more recent migrants.

So be greeted today in just a few of the many tongues spoken in South Africa. To learn a bit more of each of the languages used above, click here

On Mandela Day

Today is Nelson Mandela’s (who, according to his family is doing much better) 95th birthday.  Today is also Mandela Day.  Mandela Day was started in 2009 by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, a year after Madiba’s 90th birthday.  Later that year the UN officially declared July 18 to be International Nelson Mandela Day.

nmdnodate copyIt’s not a public holiday, not even in South Africa.  It’s rather (according to the official website) “a day dedicated to his life’s work and that of his charitable organisations, and to ensure his legacy continues forever.”  The idea behind it is that, “Mr Mandela gave 67 years of his life fighting for the rights of humanity.  All we are asking is that everyone gives 67 minutes of their time, whether it’s supporting your chosen charity or serving your local community.  Mandela Day is a call to action for individuals – for people everywhere – to take responsibility for changing the world into a better place, one small step at a time, just as Mr Mandela did.”  Wikipedia calls it, “…a global call to action that celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world, the ability to make an impact.”

I don’t have a problem with honouring the legacy of someone like Madiba.  The impact he has had on South Africa and the rest of the world cannot be denied and he will forever be remembered along with people like Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King Jr.  Nor do I disagree that every individual can and should make an impact – in fact, it should be said more often.

But this 67 minutes-thing bugs me. Continue reading