27/06/2013. Father Victor Phalana of the Sacred Heart Cathedral with the poems he wrote for President Barack Obama and former president Nelson Mandela. Picture: Masi Losi

Pretoria - A Pretoria priest has put pen to paper to deal with his emotions as Nelson Mandela remains in a critical condition.

Father Victor Phalana of Sacred Heart Cathedral is using poetry to express his sense of loss, but also his gratitude to Mandela, who has been in the Mediclinic Heart Hospital for three weeks.

“I am not a poet as such. I was just expressing my views because there is this tension of saying goodbye to someone we love,” he said of his poem titled Goodbye Tata Mandela.

He said he was by no means a poet, but when Mandela fell ill, he felt he had to express himself, scribbling down his thoughts and feelings in the early hours of the morning on the back of an old envelope.

In his 25 years as a priest, Phalana said he had never published any of his poetry, but kept it as part of his personal journal.

“I put the poems on my Facebook page and people commented and said I had to get it out there and make it available,” he said.

He said people all over the world had been praying for Mandela’s recovery, but recently he had noticed a change.

“Now, people start accepting the reality of releasing him so he can go peacefully.

“We cannot hold on to him at his expense,” he said.

He said the nation had to face reality.

“We want to keep him for many reasons because he is the embodiment of unity, tolerance and dialogue. But we have to let him go,” he said.

Phalana believes that South Africans are privileged to have been given time to bid Mandela farewell.

“Some people pass away suddenly, but we have been favoured because we have been given time to really celebrate his life while he is still alive,” he said.

He said he had seen the city’s people come together during this time.

“People are going to the hospital. They are leaving messages. It is a blessing to have Mandela here in the city where his family can feel our love,” he said.

Seeing the people’s support inspired Phalana to write another poem about Mandela’s presence in the city.

“I don’t think people realise how privileged we are to have him here,” he said.

The poem ventures into the likelihood that Pretoria might be where Mandela’s life will come to an end.

“This has brought out the best of the city’s people. Mandela is not just an ordinary man, otherwise there would not be this overflow of emotion,” he said.

He said the cathedral’s youth group planned to visit the hospital tonight to pay their respects.

On Africa Day, May 25, the congregation dedicated the day’s celebrations to Mandela.

“We have to be grateful for the life and works of Mandela. Africa produced a giant, a hero,” he said.

Phalana recently visited the Mandela section at the Apartheid Museum to relive the life of Mandela.

“We needed a man like him. He came at the right time. It is time for us to release him because we love him,” he said, adding that Mandela did not deserve to suffer during his illness.

“We have to have the courage to say goodbye. Only after a proper goodbye can we heal as a nation,” he said.

Phalana also wrote a poem for President Barack Obama, welcoming him to the city.

“We must give him a warm Tshwane welcome. He should feel at home as our brother and friend,” he said.

Father Victor Phalana’s poem:

As we sit, as we walk, as we think;

As we write the last paragraphs of the last chapter

Of the earthly life of Rolihlahla Mandela,

We say Goodbye.

You are a father in the true sense of the word

A father to your children, a father to the ANC

A father to the nation, a father of us all,

We say Goodbye.

We knew that the end would come

We are just grateful that after Robben Island,

We could still enjoy your presence and leadership,

We say Goodbye.

Thank you for saving our nation and giving us hope in dark times,

Thanks for saving our nation from civil war and destruction,

Thank you for standing up for values and principles and a vision,

We say Goodbye.

We are busy with your last paragraph and your last chapter

We have started to mourn and grieve as you melt away

We are anxious and worried; we are paying our respects,

We say Goodbye.

Go son of the soil, son of Africa, son of Azania

Go Madiba for your work is done and your purpose is fulfilled,

Go with pride to the otherworld for you have left your mark and you will never be forgotten.

We say Goodbye.

South Africans, it is up to you; he has done his part;

Let us all join hands and remain an industrious nation,

Let us bring our solutions and our creativity as we face the challenges,

We say Goodbye.

We have to look forward and backward never!

We have to be constructive for destruction is our enemy,

We have to use our minds, our hands and our strength to build the nation,

We say Goodbye.

Let us release him to go in peace and serenity.

Let us keep his memory by staying focused

We still have to make his dreams for us a reality

We say Goodbye.

O God, Giver of life and Creator of all; We surrender him now into your wonderful hands.

As he leaves this world, receive him and grant him Your mercy and Your peace,

For the good he has done in this world: may You be glorified.

We say Goodbye Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Goodbye Tata Mandela

Pretoria News