Are we shocked when we hear about someone’s demise? Has the news of someone’s death ever inspired us to think about our own impending death?

Adnan Buyung Nasution, a legend, passed away on Wednesday, Sept. 23. His death brings to an end an important era of our republic, an important part of our modern history.

When the Republic was still very young, he was himself a young activist — more a peoples’ hero than a lawyer. As the Republic grew, he too grew with the Republic, with all of us.

Sometimes within the government, at other times outside the government, the man lived and served the nation, and the peoples of this country, in many ways.

During one of our meetings in Bali he told me, “You know, to serve the nation and the people of the nation, you don’t have to have any position. You don’t have to be in government.” But of course. Yes, Sir.

But how many of us really feel the same way? The service we give has never been unconditional. We need certain positions, certain facilities — which, at times do not even justify the kind of service we render — before extending our hand to lift someone’s burden.

I also remember how he appointed one of his close aides to serve those who must be defended pro bono, those who had no means to pay for an adequate defense.

Above all, Adnan Buyung Nasution lived his life on his terms. In one case he defended someone despite certain reservations from a member of his own family. The reason he gave was very clear, “I am not moved by emotional ties. The man is innocent, and he must be defended.”

He would also have no burden to stop defending someone if he was convinced of his initial mistake, and that he had been defending a guilty person.

“Not professional,” remarked a prominent lawyer, “one does not leave one’s client midway through like this.”

One may leave midway if the client has no more money to pay for the defense, but, in the case of a moral obligation to one’s own conscience, one may not?

Buyung’s inconsistency caused him a lot of trouble, misunderstanding, and some material losses — but it was his way to remain consistent to the dictates of his heart.

What was the source of his strength? “Prayer,” he told me, “when I was in prison, I would fast every other day. Plus, I did yoga on daily basis. All those disciplines kept me going and strong enough to face any situation.”

Our young lawyers, those who are still blinded by the world’s glamor and glitter, will have to learn many lessons from this giant of men. He has left behind a legacy that has made him immortal beyond the clutches of physical death.

Our salutations to you, Sir. I shall not bid you selamat jalan (farewell), as you remain with all of us, forever.

As the US Congregationalist Henry Ward Beecher said, “Are they dead that yet move upon society, and inspire the people with nobler motives, and more heroic patriotism?”


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