A Day of Reflection: The Passing of Greatness

Another one of my legends has passed away.  Nelson Mandela was the kind of man that exuded greatness, dignity, forgiveness, and compassion, in person, on video, and through his writings.

I was blessed, as I am so often, with the opportunity to meet him when he was making his post-imprisonment tour of the world.  He came through Los Angeles when I was studying at UCLA in the early 90s.  He was to give a big speech at the L.A. Coliseum, but they gave him a ceremony at the museum the night before.  He and Winnie were to be celebrated and have an audience at this occasion.  I was in my chair in the photography line when they walked in a procession to the dais.  Often, people tell you about an ability that great people have of making you feel special when they meet you.  Well, when Nelson saw me sitting alone in line, he stopped and walked over to me, bent over, and touched me.  I felt his warmth and compassion, and I felt very special.  I could tell Winnie seemed startled by his breaking protocol.  After they moved past me, one of the photographers from the L.A. Times asked me what I said to him.  All I could say was that I told him that I love him.

Many accounts recall Nelson being that type of person.  I had similar experiences with Mohammad Ali, Stevie Wonder, Magic Johnson, Wynton Marsalis, and Bill Clinton.  Although people adore them, they have a way of making you feel special.  Nelson was that kind of person to me and I’m sure to countless others.  I’ll never forget it.  He had a demeanor about him that was calming, wise, dignified, yet enthusiastic.  He’s going to be missed by so many people.  All the progress that has been made and will be made in South Africa as a nation will be connected with his contributions.  That’s a wonderful legacy.

As usual, my President says something poignant when he talks about special moments in history and special people.  Among the other things he said about Nelson, he said he “bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”  If I was my dad, that would be one of the many quotes that I would commit to memory.  It’s one of those kinds of things that make you think and smile when you say it.  I hope you have uplifting and inspiring thoughts when you think about Nelson Mandela and the life he lived and the things he contributed.

You all know how I love my jazz and that I’ve been having some challenges with caregivers helping me get out.  I had a concert at Catalina’s last week with the great Barbara Morrison that I was looking forward to.  There won’t be any music that I like at my favorite club until next year.  So I was looking forward to listening to Barbara’s soulful, jazzy imprint on some music for my holidays.  But my buddy Brian comes to meet me weekly to help me communicate with you all, so I passed on the concert to pay my respects and acknowledge Nelson Mandela.  I try when possible to stay current and I owe you a holiday message that I’m percolating on in my mind.

Nelson was and will always be special.  I’ve lost some special people this year and we all know some special people in our lives that mean a lot to us, have a big impact on our being, and inspire us by the life they live and the things they contribute.  We should think about these people and when we have a chance, we should give them the acknowledgement while they’re here with us and tell them, “I love you.”

Much love always,