Dear Friends,

As you no doubt have heard, Archbishop Tutu has left our world at age 90.

Thank you so much for the outpouring of love and support as we grieve the loss of our beloved Father, known to all as Arch, who blessed the world with his boundless love, his moral vision, and his infectious laughter, which I still hear ringing in my ears and lightening my grief. I feel so grateful to have been able to spend so much time with him and to have known his fierce and generous love. I’m also so blessed to know Mama Leah, Trevor, Ntombi, Thandi, Mthunzi, Mpho, and the extended family, who carry on his love and mission. My condolences are with them all.

Arch blessed the world with a vision of equality, freedom, justice, forgiveness, unity, and ubuntu that is hard to really fathom, and his love will continue, as the Bible says, for a thousand years. It is hard to imagine that thirty years ago there was the abomination of a racist regime in South Africa and that Arch, and so many other brave social activists, brought it to an end. While his beloved country remains on a path toward equality and justice, like every nation, it is a reminder that profound social change is possible in our lifetime. To those who feel hopeless about the challenges in our world, we should remember how quickly radical change can happen.

I was so grateful to be able to help in a small way to share his words and his spirit with the world and to be able to celebrate and laugh with him all around the world, from Soweto and Cape Town for so many birthdays to London for his Templeton Prize to Washington, DC for President Obama’s Inauguration to Dharamsala for his dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai lama. I was fortunate to be able to see him and Mama Leah one final time in South Africa this summer—when he asked: “to see me in the meat” (aka in the flesh)—his insistence even during COVID made it clear that this was a final goodbye. I got to share with him the final version of the Mission: Joy movie, which he loved and had asked to see while “on this side of the grass,” and to help arrange one final conversation between him and his best friend, the Dalai Lama.

The world is dimmer now without Arch’s great light, shining from his eyes. He was truly an extraordinary example of what is possible for us, for humanity when we see, as he said, “with the eyes of the heart.” It takes time to become human, he also reminded us. I will miss his “Yippeee!!!”‘s, his elbow-heavy boogie, his glowing love-filled eyes, his tears, his tender, soft hand, and of course that laughter that started as a giggle, became an infectious cackle and ended as a belly-shaking guffaw that made our shared humanity so funny and so perfect. His model of resilience in the face of crushing oppression, strength through compassion, righteous indignation without hatred—are shining qualities of what the future of humanity can and must hold.

I can’t believe we got to have Arch with us for 90 years—not polio, TB, assassination attempts, or cancer could stop him, but he was ready to go. What a gift he was to his family and friends, to his parishioners, to the beloved nation of South Africa, and to the world. He gave everything a person can give in a lifetime. May we carry on his work and try to fulfill his beautiful vision of the world, each in our own way. In 20Tutu and beyond, I will constantly be asking myself, “What Would Tutu Do?”

We were asked to send a story or memory for his 90th birthday in October.  Mine is below.

Father, rest in peace, rest in power, and rise in glory!

In grief for your death and gratitude for your life,


Dearest Father,

     What an incredible joy to celebrate your 90th birthday! Your blessing in my life and in our world is impossible to describe, but I’ll share just a few words of deep appreciation for the unspeakable joy of your being my friend, my mentor, and my father.  You are with me daily as a role model of all that is possible for us as human beings if we have the humility and grace to share our vulnerability and believe in our power to change the world, one word, one step, one laugh, and one embrace at a time. It has been one of the greatest joys of my life to be the midwife of your words and the porter for your literary legacy as you have climbed to the mountain top and preached your sermon of joy and justice, unity, and compassion. I hear your giggling, cackling belly laugh that seems to rise up the flagpole of delight echoing in my soul.

     There are so many stories that live in my heart, from our first hug in Boston when Lynn reminded me in the letter she sent to arrive after her death that I asked you “what was in your heart to say” to your giving Eucharist to the Dalai Lama, saying God will decide who comes to his table, to the loving spiritual counsel you gave me just this summer as we commiserated about the heart-rending double pain when our children suffer. But the story that stands out most was during your 75th birthday at St. Mary’s Cathedral when you wept in front of the congregation, speechless and astonished when witnessing the life you had lived and the improbable journey from what you called a “township urchin” to Laureate, Archbishop, healer of a nation, and a man so loved by his family, friends, country, and world.

     Beloved Mama got out of her pew and with her painful knees and great love hobbled up into the pulpit to hold you. You wept in her arms as the Church burst into song, singing their love for you and lifting you up, musical ubuntu, holding you as you had held them. When you were done with your tears, Mama left the pulpit and you gave a brilliant sermon about the long journey to end Apartheid. That moment captures for me the most extraordinary example of true moral leadership from the heart of our humanity—one that acknowledges our vulnerability, our brokenness, the fact that our need for one another is not weakness but strength. You are the most extraordinary example of what is possible for we human beings, we god-carriers, we Children of God if we are willing to open our minds and our hearts and our souls, and to live a life that is ennobled by our laughter and baptized by our tears.

I love you, Father, you are with us always.