Nelson Mandela Notes by Gabriel Banda, 03: Nelson Mandela, Death and Us

This is part of my writing on Nelson Mandela’s life, work, death, funeral, and the lessons for us.  Please, check other pieces, such as another view “Mandela Funeral Signer, Fake or Saint? A defence,” to be posted. But already posted are two parts, on Mandela and the Invictus great lessons, that can be found by searching “Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, 06: Nelson Mandela and Invictus, Part I” which is accessed at…nvictus-part-i/ and searching “Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, 07: Nelson Mandela and Invictus, Part II” accessed at…victus-part-ii/. Because of the two Mandela and Invictus pieces, we have counted this Nelson Mandela Death and Us piece as Nelson Mandela Notes, Number 03.

The site has my other pieces on peace and conflict, entitled “Gabriel Banda Peace Notes,” dealing with Egypt Transition Lessons, the “No More Hurting People” poem linked to Boston Bombing April 2013, Nick Clegg and Intervention Principles and Syria,  March on Washington 50 Years Later, The ICC and Us, and even Remembering Margaret Thatcher (who I met one time). Thank You.


Nelson Mandela, Death and Us


Gabriel C Banda

IT was an assembly of humanity. Hundreds of millions of persons watched on TV screens all over the world. For days, since his passing on Thursday December 5, 2013, and even in his illness over the past few months, people have deeply followed events around Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela’s lively funeral memorial service on Tuesday December 10, 2013 was witnessed by persons of various situations. They felt moved to be involved in various events from the time of announcement of Nelson Mandela’s passing, at age 95, to the December 15 burial day at Qunu, and beyond.

They came from all over the world. Although raining that day, they amassed into Johannesburg’s huge FNB stadium. Great numbers of female and male they were.

The persons were of various skin colour, various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and were of many tongues. They were of various ages, young and elderly. They were from various religions, denominations, and spiritual ways.

They played various jobs and roles, from heads of state and governments, with over one hundred present and past rulers, to politicians of various persuasions. Present were persons from the arts, sports, industries, business and commerce, workers unions, and various fields. They were in various financial positions. They came from near and afar. They came from all over the world. This was humanity assembled.

They mourned. They appreciated. They celebrated. Nelson Mandela, in life and in death, brought together people. It may be quite long before the world witnesses another event with similar worldwide attention as Nelson Mandela’s passing.


Yes, the passing of another affects us, directly or indirectly. Every life living affects us where ever we are living, now and in the future. Thus the death of any person has potential to make us reflect on our own situation and on life in general.  Of course, the atmosphere depends on circumstances of the death. It depends on people’s attitudes towards the life and actions of the person departed.

It is true that funerals may bring out tension amongst those already in conflict or dispute. During the December 10, 2013 memorial of Nelson Mandala at FNB stadium, some persons, with past or current issues to raise, booed President Jacob Zuma.

But generally, in many situations, with an atmosphere of Goodwill, mourners renew and rekindle relationships. Relationships are healed. People begin to work together again. And new relationships develop. At funerals, there is gratitude. We find love in motion.

Death is always transforming. The death of a person works on us at individual and collective levels. The dead person’s passing provides some platform for healing and reflection. A death, with its funeral that follows, is always opportunity for improving individual and wider situations and relationships. 

Whatever we are doing in life, and whatever situation we are now in, the passing of another person provides us chance to reflect on our life thus far. It enables us to consider the life of the person departed and what we can learn from them. We can avoid some things and pick up on some things.

In many cultures, there is reverence towards death and the departed. There is celebration of the contributions of a person. Funerals have some atmosphere of Goodwill. Respect is expected from all. People will be friendly, or at least polite, to each other. Those with existing conflicts will have some ceasefire.

Death and funerals provide chance for us to think about the nature of life. Funerals enable us to think about our own life and what we should now be doing to move ahead.

Those from groups in conflict can decide as individuals, or in cooperation with members of their groups, to reach out to others from a group they are in conflict with.

We focus on the good part of a person. That is not to say the person had no weaknesses but that we may just be appreciating their essential humanity, their being a person, and the progressive parts they were involved in. We let go our being worried by their weaknesses. We also realise that what is termed good or bad action is in some cases relative, disputable, and interpreted differently in various situations and times.

In reviewing another’s life, it is chance to review our own situation. It is time for realignment on our journey. It is time to syncronise our compass and journey.

Through the life of another, we can learn and grow. Through the experiences of billions of our brothers and sisters worldwide, we have chance to live billions of lives.

Our journey of life happens with us in teams where we work in some relay with others.  Those who still remain carry forward the torch of life.

During a funeral, we go into retreat and reflection over a life. We consider existence itself. It is time for reawakening.

So, if we open our selves and learn from the life of Nelson Mandela and others, we may deeply grow as individuals, groups, nations, and humanity.


(c)     –      GCB, December 2013, LUSAKA.


Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the author is involved in writing, social development, and peace issues.




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