How do you move from mourning to memory?? How do you begin to make the shift from acknowledging and honoring the pain of a loss, to building and celebrating the memory of the one who is gone?? These are the questions which all of us who care about Nelson Mandela will need to begin asking and answering in the weeks and months ahead.
How we mourn is fundamentally something which comes right from the heart.? Whatever rituals and practices shape our mourning, from ancient to just invented, all work best when they help us open our hearts, feel the loss more deeply, and ideally, the love of those who will support us through it.? That’s mourning.? Memory is different.
Memory must honor what we feel in our hearts, but it must also be shaped by what’s in our heads.? For memory to be powerful and durable, it must come from both the heart and the head.? Yes, that’s a false dichotomy, but it’s a useful one, so go with it.
Memory is a choice – whether it’s about Nelson Mandela, a departed family member, a past relationship or pretty much anything else.? We choose what to remember and what not to remember.??? Will we remember with anger?? With idealized rose-colored glasses?? As a way to heal?? It’s up to us.
How will we remember Nelson Mandela?? As a firebrand revolutionary?? As the long-suffering prisoner of Robben Island?? Will we remember him as a peace-seeking political activist?? As a national healer committed to the marriage of “truth and reconciliation”?
To be sure, Nelson Mandela was all of these things and so much more, and I will remember them all.? I also want to suggest one more way to remember him – one which I think will help assure his legacy for the ages, and one which we can all use to better our own lives right now.
I want to remember Nelson Mandela as the man who moved with such grace and integrity through being all of those people mentioned above, integrating the wisdom of each experience as he did so.? In our world of either/or, Nelson Mandela mobilized millions as he championed an approach that was fundamentally both/and.
How many of us would so much happier and healthier if we too could move toward a both/and approach to our own lives – holding on with integrity to our pasts, even as we lovingly and fearlessly embraced the present and the future?? The Nelson Mandela, or at least an important part of the Nelson Mandela who I want to take with us from mourning to memory, and into our everyday lives.
Brad Hirschfield is the co-founder and co-executive editor of The Wisdom Daily. A rabbi, Brad has been featured on ABC’s Nightline UpClose, PBS’s Frontline, Fox News and National Public Radio. He wrote a long-standing column, “For God’s Sake,” for the Washington Post, and has also written for The Huffington Post and Beliefnet.com. He authored the book, You Don?t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism. Brad also serves as President of Clal, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center in New York City.