EVER since that May day in 2004, I have always regretted not being a more pushy person.
That was when Nelson Mandela visited Trinidad and I was invited, along with other Express editors, to a luncheon in his honour at Hilton Trinidad.
Just being in the same room with the great man was special and memorable, although I thought long and hard about getting close to him and posing for a picture.
But you don’t treat a man of such great dignity like some rock star...you don’t jump into his space and intrude just to secure a photo for posterity.
That night, I think I boasted to my friends about who I had been to lunch with when I sat down for our weekly card game...and still regretted not getting within an arm’s length of the man and telling him hello face-to-face.
Since then, from afar, I’ve continued to admire his courage, his statesmanship and how to put so many years of unjustified incarceration behind him and be able to forgive and forget.
And listen to his lovely, lilting voice.
I looked at Invictus just to see Morgan Free man’s portrayal of Mandela, when South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup not long after the end of apartheid. Or revelled in the few sightings of “Madiba” during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
And I said a quiet prayer every time he fell ill, asking the Lord to give some more time on Earth to a man who has taught us so many life lessons.
People like Mandela don’t come along very often, so much so that my youngest daughter, who never read a newspaper in her life, was the one to inform her older sister, who is the one on top of current affairs, that Nelson Mandela had passed away when the news broke yesterday evening.
She wasn’t sure how to spell his name, whether there was one “l” or two in Mandela, and she had to ask her sister, but somehow she knew about the special aura of this man who closed his eyes for the last time yesterday.
Rest in peace.