Like so many people all over the world, we have been following news reports on Nelson Mandela's health. For someone of mature years like me, who remembers too well the evil days when the apartheid regime in South Africa had him in prison, it is sad to see him decline. It seemed like a miracle when he was freed.
One spring day some years ago during the Mulroney administration, I heard on the news that Nelson and Winnie Mandela, who had been visiting Canada, could be seen in person, if not close up, if we stood at a fence at the \Ottawa airport, from which they were flying home. My husband and I drove out to the area, parked by the side of the road, and stood with people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds who wanted a glimpse of the Mandelas. Eventually they appeared, with the Mulroneys, and greeted some of the people at the fence, but we didn't see them close up as we were too far away. The Mulroneys seemed to believe that all the.. people had come out to see them, and they kept waving and moving in front of the Mandelas,obstructing our view of them.
Eventually both couples went inside a building after a final wave. On our way back to the car we passed a young couple, and heard a girl exclaim, with joy, "These hands were touched by Winnie's!"
Time has passed and a lot has happened. In light of things that came out of the South African Truth and Reconciliation hearings, there's a certain irony about that girl being so thrilled to have touched Winnie's hands.
I have always been glad we went to see the .Mandelas, even if it was at a distance. We respect and honour the love and grief being expressed by South Africans these days, and we wish them and their country well.