My heart was broken today on learning the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Why would I, as an American, be so heartbroken? On a personal level, my mother and her ancestors were British, so I have spent my entire life closely watching the British monarchy, and, like most of the people of Great Britain and the Commonwealth (and the world), I have only ever known one British monarch – so she has felt like a part of my family ever since my birth 63 years ago. Also on a personal level, my parents (who both passed away 14 years ago), were married in England in 1952 – the same year that Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne, and they bore a resemblance (and mannerisms) to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip – something my siblings and I used to joke about a lot as we were growing up in our middle-class family. Having the Queen and Prince Phillip (who passed in 2021) around, provided some ongoing comfort to me for many years after the loss of my parents.
But the biggest reason for my heartbreak (in addition to the loss of someone I truly admired and loved) is the acknowledgement that the people and things we once counted on, are slipping away, as well as the reminder that it is up to us to decide for ourselves, what is truly important now and in the future. Queen Elizabeth II’s passing is not only the passing of a beloved monarch. It is also the end of an era – one in which we looked for leaders to guide us through uncertainty – as well as our transition into an emerging era where it becomes more and more important that we find our own strength within to impact the people and events around us.
Someone remarked today that Queen Elizabeth II has been the British monarch for almost 1/3 of the entire history of the United States! Someone else remarked that her first and last Prime Ministers were born 100 years apart! Think about the significance of that! Throughout her 70-year reign (beginning not long after the end of WWII), the entire world has lived through enormous social, cultural, political, spiritual, economic, technological, environmental and health changes, as well as militaristic and terroristic upheavals (to name a few). Virtually every human being on earth, has been living under constant, life-changing CHANGE. Add to this, the fact that so many of us have lost loved ones at one point in our lives. Throughout our lives, we have found happiness, as well as sadness and disappointment in so many of the ideas and the people we counted on to help us navigate through life. For many of us, Queen Elizabeth II was the one constant you could count on to always be there, and to almost never disappoint. She didn’t engage in scandal, she didn’t engage in nasty partisanship, she didn’t act entitled to anything, she didn’t turn her back on people, she didn’t complain about changing norms or behaviors, she didn’t respond angrily to attacks or abuses – she simply lived a life of service which never ended until the day she passed away at 96 years old. She was, in many ways, the stability that is so deeply missed in the lives of so many.
There are two ways of living in the world. One is called “Service to Self”, and the other is called “Service to Others”. Every day we are forced to witness the results of those who live a life of “Service to Self” – the grifters, the corrupt, the entitled, the greedy, the self-promoters, the people who prey on the weaknesses of others – those who only care about what they can take and enjoy, over the needs of others and without any concern for the common good. We often don’t see those who live a life of “Service to Others”. They do exist, however, and perhaps their numbers are far greater than those who care only about themselves, but we often don’t see them, because they quietly carry out the extraordinary good that goes on in the world, without seeking attention or reward. And because we don’t see their actions or the long-term benefits of the work that they do, we can begin to feel defeated and lost and without hope, as we are overwhelmed by the actions of those seeking only to enrich themselves. By her very presence, Queen Elizabeth II reminded us (even if only subconsciously), not to discount the good that goes on, and to recognize just how important it is to remain steady and strong and devoted in service to others, even while navigating enormous changes and challenges that may be occurring all around us. She managed many times to unify a country and Commonwealth often torn apart by difficult and polarizing actions and perspectives, and yet she did it without taking sides or wielding political power (which she did not have). She simply showed us how to accept change as an unavoidable condition of life, which can never-the-less be navigated and quietly impacted with a strength of character and a determination that does not need to destroy or condemn – but which requires an understanding of who we are, and what we can give in service to others.
She was not part of my family or country, but I will deeply miss her as if she was – because she certainly felt like she was a huge part of my life! I think her passing can be seen as another light in the world going out, and I hope that we will all find ways to shine our own light brighter, so that we can fill that huge void which has been left.
Thank you for your devoted and never-ending service, dear Queen!