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You are here: Home >> Blog >> Blogs by Marie Fortune (retired) >> An Old Tree Has Fallen

An Old Tree Has Fallen

Dec 06, 2013 — Categories:

In the forest, when an old tree comes to the end of its life, a strong wind may topple it. As it lies on the ground, slowly releasing its life energy, it becomes something new. It becomes a nurse tree. Seeds from other trees land on it; moss grows; new trees begin to take root. If you walk through old growth forests, you will see many large trees growing with their roots firmly attached to a fallen nurse tree. And so the cycle continues. A very large, old, stately tree has fallen in South Africa. The seeds of the next generation are already drawing nourishment from his life energy.

In the forest, when an old tree comes to the end of its life, a strong wind may topple it. As it lies on the ground, slowly releasing its life energy, it becomes something new. It becomes a nurse tree. Seeds from other trees land on it; moss grows; new trees begin to take root.  If you walk through old growth forests, you will see many large trees growing with their roots firmly attached to a fallen nurse tree. And so the cycle continues. A very large, old, stately tree has fallen in South Africa. The seeds of the next generation are already drawing nourishment from his life energy.

It is perhaps nothing short of a miracle that Nelson Mandela lived to be 95 years old, able to retire from public life, spend time with his family, and reflect on the fruits of his labor. It is nothing short of a miracle that he was not executed or assassinated. It was a blessing to South Africa that he survived the harsh repression and political turmoil and, along with thousands of other activists, saved South Africa from itself. It was a blessing that he was able to lead the country through a transition to democracy and justice with a compassionate and forgiving heart.

I expect that Mandela would be pleased that his passing has created a moment of reflection around the world about our collective work for social justice. Many are sharing memories of hearing him or reading him or meeting him and what they learned from those encounters.

I am reminded of my small contribution to the anti-apartheid movement here in the U.S. when along with several other clergywomen, we were arrested while picketing the South African Consulate here in Seattle. This was a regular Sunday afternoon effort for many months during the divestment campaign.

I am also reminded of my visit to Capetown four years ago and going to Robben Island with my friend and colleague, Elizabeth Petersen, and standing in the cell where Mandela was imprisoned for more than 20 years. While there, I tried to imagine what he suffered but I am afraid that my imagination could not comprehend his experience.

For me, the lesson I hold to from Mandela’s life is the reality that the road to social justice is long and never ending. But when people of good will stand up together, we can push back the darkness of oppression and create the space for new ways of living with one another in justice and peace. One person can change the world but never one person alone.

As Dr. King said, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

It is our job to stay on the path, together.

Elizabeth and Marie

Marie and Elizabeth on Robben Island

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Nelson Mandela

Posted by Rex Beach at Dec 07, 2013 08:27 PM
Dear Marie

Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comments Nelson Mandela, a man for the ages as President Obama so eloquently expressed it.

In my opinion, there is nothing that compels one to consider the Christian faith as much as personal example. To me Nelson Mandela embodied and executed the essence of Christ's teachings. I thank the Good Lord for this wonderful man.

Regards,

Rex Beach

Gratitude for the Great Trees of our Life

Posted by Lynda at Dec 07, 2013 08:27 PM
Beautiful analogy that also has special meaning for our family. The old oak that was on the family farm for a century finally was felled by disease and lightening, reminding us of the wonderful aunts and uncles (and my dad)who was the last of that generation, leaving us as the ones to carry on. We give thanks for your dad and the great men and women of our lives who continue to inform and inspire our lives. We are grateful for your work.

Lynda and John

Mandela

Posted by Judy Callahan at Dec 07, 2013 08:28 PM
Your comment about Mandela being a fallen tree brought tears to my eyes. How appropriate. John and I visited Robben Island and saw his cell. We learned from a docent (former inmate) of his life in prison. Not many could sacrifice their own liberty to draw the world's attention to the plight of his brothers and sisters. Even more impressive was the demeanor of the people after his release. His example of forgiveness and patience inspired a nation. It has been a privilege to benefit from his amazing example.

Marie's tribute to Mandela

Posted by Kay Shively at Dec 07, 2013 08:28 PM
Beautiful symbolism, Marie. The best thing I've heard in the reflections on Mandela's life!

fallen tree

Posted by Elaine Shaw, OP at Dec 09, 2013 10:41 PM
Here at St. Catharine, KY, the Dominican Sisters of Peace last week planted 5 new trees with a prayer service on TREES and their meaning in our lives as stewards of the earth. Marie's beautiful symbol of the Fallen Old Tree of Nelson Mandela holds special meaning now for me. Thank you so much, as always, for your perspective and reflection on our lives and times.
Gratefully,
Elaine

Nelson Mandela

Posted by Christine Kendrick at Dec 09, 2013 10:42 PM
Nelson Mandela, memory will be one of life's greatest memory to cherish and pass along to the ones that have not lived in this moment.

Their will never be another man that can filled those shoes. God made one choice and Nelson Mandela was the one...my heart cries and my heart rejoice and my heart sings and I dance. For I too have a piece of him!!!