A headline of a major South African newspaper read earlier this month “IT’S TIME TO LET GO”, in reference to Nelson Mandela and his failing health.
His family have since said that his life was now in God’s hands and that all they wished for now was his transition to be peaceful, which is the least that this unbelievable human being should have.
While this man who leaves a legacy almost beyond belief, not just for the South African people but also for the entire world, who will live on in history books forever, while he is still with us, there is also another shifting of values and feelings being processed by us all.
No matter who a person has been during their time on earth, most of us will end up either slowly, often painfully exiting our life. For others maybe thankfully we may go very quickly or in our sleep. While others instantly due to a tragic event. But either way, there is no one that can really determine how their final chapter is going to play out.
What does happen for those gathered around the dying or close to the person on the way out, is the complexity of how to feel and what to do about supporting their loved one. And that can often create all sorts of really painful emotionally charged debate.
It’s been sad watching some of South Africa’s mourners as they keep a vigil outside his hospital as many hope that he will have a vast improvement in health, desperately praying that modern medicine will be able to pull him back from the brink. Preferring to be able to say their spiritual leader is alive as they are not ready to let him go.
Most of us may not really know until we’re in this situation ourselves as to what we’ll end up feeling during such a time with our own families last days but in mine, with my Grandmother Harriet, I was not celebrating the wonders of medicine in her last days.
Several times as she lay on what was to be her deathbed I couldn’t help but see in her eyes that she was really ready to go. I could feel in my heart that she was deeply sad to still be around and each operation she pulled through was a tragedy to me and I felt importantly, also for her.
Before the final blow of her major health condition and while she was still in her lovely nursing home, she started telling me all sorts of stories about the life she had before us lot had hit the planet. Stories of her growing up in Scotland, about the sisters I’d either never known or not much of, and of course her beloved husband who died before I was born.
I knew that her life was literally passing before her minds eye and she was now feeling a huge wave of sadness about missing them all. It became apparent to me right then that our precious time with her in our lives was coming to an end. We’d had all the joy and all the memories we were privileged to have but we needing to start being selfless and letting her go.
We live in a gifted society where there are cures and modern technology that can draw out or save a life, but the downside of that is that our sense of saving at any cost, sometimes outweighs that person’s soul truly wanting to go.
The reality of the situation when someone reaches a certain ripe old age is if their body still hangs on, as assisted by the wonderful people trained to save them, there really isn’t much of a chapter left for them to enjoy. There’s not going to be a party appropriate to throw to celebrate what’s next for them?
A lot of the time the peace we may feel in saying ‘they’re still here’ is more about us and not the person engulfed by their mental and physical suffering.