They are young and they are middle-aged and they are old.
They walk unaided and with canes; they ride in baby strollers and in wheelchairs.
They are famous and they are not.
They are in sweatshirts and bunny hugs and ski jackets and dress coats; dresses and leggings; jeans and suits.
They are in black and they are not.
They are civilians and they are retired military members in blazers and medals and berets.
They are singletons and friends and couples and families.
They embody all the skin colours and hair colours and shapes and sizes that are encoded in the human genome.
They are weepy, they are stricken, they are calm.
As I write this, the period of Queen Elizabeth’s lying-in-state is not quite half over. By Monday, hundreds of thousands of people will have participated, each in their own way.
As they come abreast of the casket, they pause. Some cross themselves, some curtsy, some bow their heads, some bow from the waist, some use the namaste gesture, some blow a kiss, some stand at attention, some salute, some close their eyes. Some do something that is not visible.
They are all different, for sure, but not in the things that matter. They are patient. They are respectful of others. They are *quiet.* At least for the brief time they are in the hall, and despite their differences, they are one in their desire to pay their respects.
We can rightly lament the history of colonialism and its ongoing legacy. We can debate the current merits of constitutional monarchy and deplore the associated privilege. We can begrudge the financial cost of the pageantry.
But however we get there, we can also find some peace and hope in institutions that separate our love of our country from its unlovable politics. We can find some rest in rituals that help us remember and express the underlying reality of life: In joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, in life and in death, we are one.