Mourning the Death and Celebrating the Life of Nelson Mandela

Robin Stocksdale, MSW, LCSW-C, CT Bereavement Services Manager
Robin Stocksdale, MSW, LCSW-C, CT
Bereavement Services Manager

Today the world mourns the death and celebrates the life of Nelson Mandela. When South African President Jacob Zuma announced Mandela’s death, he reported that Mandela died “peacefully,” surrounded by family.

“We’ve lost our greatest son. Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father,” Zuma said.

For those of us who work for Gilchrist Hospice Care, we would call his peaceful death a “good death” – one we strive to achieve for all of our patients. As our patients approach end of life, we often encourage them to reflect upon their lives – their relationships, joys, regrets, and successes. And after the death, Gilchrist’s Bereavement Services encourages families to celebrate their loved one’s lasting legacy – even as they grieve their profound loss.

As South African President Zuma reflected, “Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.” So while we mourn for Mandela, we also celebrate his legacy.

We most often think of Nelson Mandela’s tireless fight against apartheid before, during, and after his unjust imprisonment. Yet what many do not know is that Mandela also was passionate about fighting AIDS, defying stigma and publicly acknowledging that his own son, Makgatho, died of the disease.

Mandela acknowledged that “history will surely judge us harshly if we do not respond with all the energy and resources that we can bring to bear in the fight against HIV/AIDS.” Toward that end, he created the 46664 foundation (his identification number in prison) which is committed to global awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS. He used his reputation and his energy to stress how fundamental this is to the future the developing world.

Gilchrist Hospice Care is also committed to helping those in Africa who are suffering from AIDS. Since 2009, Gilchrist has partnered with Nkoaranga Hospital’s Hospice and Palliative Care Program in Arusha, Tanzania. Through the grass-roots efforts of the staff of Gilchrist Hospice Care and Greater Baltimore Medical Center, $60,000 per year is raised to support Nkoaranga’s program which serves 900 patients with only 5 staff members and 42 volunteers. This year, in addition to raising the operating budget for Nkoaranga, we are striving to raise an additional $60,000 to purchase an ambulance for the program.

For more information about Gilchrist’s partnership in Africa and how you can help, please contact Gilchrist Hospice Care at or call 443-849-8283.

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