A mighty bright light passed on to the next universe with the death of Nelson Mandela two weeks ago.

Mandela has been a huge, towering, extraordinary lighthouse of life and hope in my life ever since the song “Biko” by Peter Gabriel shattered my first-world preoccupation on being a college student in the early 1980s. It feels rather surreal knowing he is now gone and belongs to the ages, as countless others have eloquently eulogized Mandela since his passing at age 95.

About a week before Mandela died, a fellow mentor and friend recently shared how hard it can be for some people to create lasting, positive life changes. The prison walls they have constructed or allowed others to build around them often lead to some complaining that it’s too late, they’re too old, or that their particular circumstances are so exceptionally challenging, exceptional, unchangeable and impossible that it just ain’t gonna happen.

I loved how she described this conflict and cut to the heart of the matter: “Do we argue for another person’s limitations, or for their possibilities?”

Nelson Mandela refused to accept imprisonment or limitations placed on him by others. He never gave up on his vision of freedom, justice and equality in South Africa, and he lived to see his dreams come true. Even from his jail cell, he envisioned peace, reconciliation and  new possibilities for all South Africans, and by extension, all people of the world. Where on earth would be now if Nelson Mandela had caved to the limitations and restrictions others had created for him and most non-white South Africans?

It’s hard, if not impossible and unknowable to say, but please read on and I’ll try to connect the dots…

About one month ago, I volunteered to facilitate the second of two Creativity For Life Saturday November workshops with Living Art of Montana, whose mission is to promote healing through nature and the arts. That day we read and shared favorite nature quotes that I had brought in, and from there we selected a few key words from each one to create our own “bowl poem” which would accompany individual  artwork we had started creating the Saturday before.

I’ve always been inspired by these amazing, extraordinary women and men I’ve met through Living Art of Montana.

Some are living with, while others are recovering from, cancer, and they all seem to courageously, fearlessly and honestly live their lives without regret or excuses.

One of the common threads shared and taken deeply to heart from them is that this is the gift that a life-threatening illness has brought them. Another is to live and be fully present now, to never give up, to always find a way to keep taking action and moving forward, to never be a prisoner, and to be as free, authentic,vulnerable, loving and loved as possible. To never lose your sense of humor, or to forget about what is really precious about your own life, or about life itself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the poem I wrote that day, especially given Nelson Mandela’s passing, and the knowledge that none of us really know how much time our souls have to enjoy living, loving and being in our human earth bodies::

Earth love story grows
Quiet Courage, Creations Hitched
Wild, Willful Rivers of Universal Chaos
No Mistakes
Need More Union
Precious Surrender

Have a wonderful, safe, peaceful and Happy Winter Solstice, and enjoy the return of the light in a few short days. May we also always remember that it is indeed our own unique light that makes a difference in the lives of others, and to always keep on shining on.

Happy Solstice!