what I (don’t) know

I don’t know how I feel about monarchy but I had a real affection for

Elizabeth Windsor. And this must have been apparent because my son rang on the day of her death to ask if I was all right ?   I was taken aback and into that pause, he said “I know there was an affinity, I just wanted to make sure …”   and I was touched and thanked him from the bottom of my heart, said yes, I was OK.  I had known it was serious from the moment it was reported that Harry Sussex flew up to Balmoral alone, God bless and keep her.  

I don’t want you to think that I aspire to monarchy.  I don’t.   But like other public role playing , there are ways of getting it right and she did, in spades.  And I wish our new king and his wife

and family and the estate of royalty -all of which will be impacted by the change at the top – the very best, it’s a tricky one.  Strive to know the role.   

When my father died after 48 years of marriage, my mother had to go back to work.  Pop was good at all sorts of things but he was no good at money.  I am however happy to report that my mother had a fine time in her last years as a supply teacher. The journey was tolerable, the headteacher imaginative, the staff agreeable and, working with a different age group and delightedly coming to understand (as have I in a different context) that white hair says something before you speak, you couldn’t ask for more.

But I had never been through major bereavement (defined as the loss of a parent, partner or child)

before and when she began this late tour of duty, I rang rather nervously to wonder if she could manage.  She said she could, adding “It’s really helpful.”  I was thrown – how ?   “Well, I have to get up and walk the dog” she said.  “I have to eat something, get dressed and get the bus.  The kids are fine, I’m busy and when I come home,  even though I am tired, I have to walk the dog, and eat – and do it again.  It concentrates the mind quite wonderfully.”   I thought of this when I saw the new King leave his car and head for the crowd, to be himself, to show he could be different from his mother, but mostly – to do something.

We all feel what we feel and we all feel differently.  Bereavement causes people great heartache, not only because of the loss and things said and unsaid, but because it’s irretrievable.  Death is the last great mystery.

  We don’t know where you go, or what you see, we don’t know how you feel.  And you rarely try to tell us.  I remain amazed by the number of people professing religious belief who do not find it comforting.  Bereavement can be utterly dislocating.  It can play tricks on you.  You deal with immediacy well, only to break down in tears in the supermarket five months later.  All sorts of other big things are involved – loss, discovery, confusion, anger, hopelessness, probably euphoria.   There are documented stages to grief but they don’t come in the same order or timescale.   

There are people who are open to the choppy sea of loss, who acknowledge its variety, and those who set their faces against it.  None of us, I venture to say, have to do this in public – or in the presence of such a public – cameras, newsreels, reporters domestic and foreign, friendly and frankly not, a sea of cell phones, every gesture real or imagined remarked and interpreted. 

You need look no further than what has been imputed to the Prince of Wales, his brother and their wives walking a path to look at flowers left in tribute and meet a crowd.  When I heard a reporter use the same phrase for the third time, I said “Bread and circuses !” very loudly and switched the tv off.   There is no shortcut to this.  We shall see.            

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