As the world reacted to Nelson Mandela’s passing last week, I was struck by how different this loss of a public figure felt than just about any other in recent time. My best summary of this sense was: less grief, more gratitude.
I read the articles, watched the news stories and continued to see and hear various versions of “what a remarkable man” and “what a profound life” vs. “what a sad loss” (though yes, of course, that’s very real and true).
At first I thought that perhaps it was due to the fact that he lived for 95 years – a long life.
Or perhaps it was because he was ill for some time – an expected death.
Or perhaps it was because he had written entire chapters of our world history – an immeasurable impact.
Or perhaps it was because he was an admirable, steadfast and influential leader – a role model.
And then it hit me. When I read the words of people who actually knew him. Words like:
“We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life.”
~ Former President Bill Clinton
“Madiba taught us how to come together and how to believe in ourselves and each other…He taught us extraordinarily practical lessons about forgiveness and compassion and reconciliation.”
~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“He was a man of courage, principle and unquestionable integrity, a great human being, someone of whom we can truly say, “He lived a meaningful life.”
~ The Dalai Lama
Living a meaningful life. A life that includes both challenges and successes. A life that allows us to “grow into” ourselves, with integrity, forgiveness, compassion and trial and error. A life that is spent in service – to causes and people. A life that is spent helping fight injustice, alleviate suffering and fostering unity and understanding.
What a remarkable life indeed. A life that allowed him and us to feel this sense of “more gratitude, less grief” as it was ending. The world was lucky to have Nelson Mandela.
And the world is lucky to have you. That’s right – you. Because you’re not much different than Mandela.
How do I know that? Easy. You’re reading this. You subscribe to a little thing called, “Custom Made Life.” And that’s telling. It says that you’re a creator of your very own version of “meaningful life.” It says that you care about living consciously, living well and having a positive impact on the world around you.
You’re on your way. Whether you’re at the beginning of that journey, or farther down the path, please continue. Continue to live your values. Continue to share your gifts. Continue to push through the challenges. Continue to build your team. Continue to recalibrate when necessary. Continue to practice compassion, forgiveness, integrity and love.
And read an interesting autobiography from time to time. Maybe even “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela. Not only will you learn about people, history and the world, but you’ll learn about yourself and continue to evolve your ideas about your own meaningful life.