I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. Nelson Mandela
July 18 is the shared birthday of two special people, born on the same day of the same year, 1918. It sounds and is so long ago, 94 years. Dot Griffin, my mother, was born to a father who was busy building a fledgling business at the end of WWI and a mother who had aspirations of grandeur for herself and her girls.
Today, Africa and the world celebrate the 94th birthday of Nelson Mandela. 15 years ago today, on her 79th birthday, we buried our mother. My grandmother Griffin had 5 children; Dot was the oldest. She described her early life as Cinderella, consigned to caring for the younger ones to the exclusion of her own wants, needs and desires. She resented it terribly and found a way out by marrying a man everyone warned her against when she was 18.
Two children later, the husband left Mom to fend for herself at the onset of WWII. Once again she was relegated to struggling to support others despite her own desires. Nelson was incarcerated by the apartheid regime of South Africa for over 27 years, only to emerge victorious, rising from the ashes of the demise of that regime to become the president of the country that had suppressed and brutalized him for so long.
Mom married Dad near the end of the war and struggled with him to build a business that over several years became prosperous enough that she could finally get some help with her own 5 children. What liberation that must have been for her, and what servitude, albeit for decent people, it was for Pauline, the housekeeper who came to live and work on our premises.
The interplay of race, oppression, war, death and finally victory for both of these gallant people weaves them together in a way that could not have been imagined beforehand. So today I raise a toast to both of them, to Nelson on his 94th birthday and to Dot on the 15th anniversary of the occasion of her funeral. Thank you both for your contributions to the world.