Last night I stayed up late to watch in the funeral of Nelson Mandela and witness his burial in Qunu, the soil he called home. The majestic landscape of his ancestral village seemed to salute him, standing tall and bright as Mandela returned for his final repose.
Once his family released him one final time, I said my final farewell from my home across the world. I leaned in and blew out the pillar candle that burned for days in our kitchen. I returned the books of his life to their proper place in my library. I tossed the now limping lilies into the garbage. I put the vigil candle on the ledge with my icon collection, to always remember Mandela among the saints (though he often reminded us he was a sinner).
I began to transition from mourning to living.
I remembered another moment in the sunlight of a rural community – this time in Bubanza. I was there to celebrate a man who moved from No Name to Hope, to witness as he took on a new name given by the elders to honor his transformational work among them.
After he accepted his new name we walked outside to plant trees.
I named my tree Mandela. Even this summer Mandela loomed large in my heart and on this day where we commemorated transformation, I wanted to plant his legacy in the Burundian soil. I prayed that a Mandela would rise from this community of children, someone who would become an advocate for the Batwa and a peacemaker within the Burundian landscape.
Today I remember my Mandela tree. May the life of Madiba continue to nourish our imaginations for freedom, reconciliation and true ubuntu. May his life also remind us that deep transformation requires sacrifice, loss, hard work and forgiving real enemies.
May Mandela rest in peace – and may we continue our long walk to freedom in Bubanza, Burundi, Arizona or where ever we stand today.