All Different

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.


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12 Responses to All Different

  1. Tom Watson says:

    Wonderful thoughts, Isabel

  2. Beautifully articulated, Isabel. This Queen, in spite of all probabilities against such a thing, conveyed her sense of our common humanity and of our equal opportunities for nobility, of which the actual royal family is only a shadow, as she doubtless also knew.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – So many have lives of service that aren’t recognized in the same way as this royal service. I see the family as quite ordinary people thrust into impossible roles. Some step up, some step aside, some fall down. Perhaps that’s true of all of us.

      • From my oblique study of British history through the literature and language of its favoured authors, I tend to agree with you. I had thought that brute physical strength must have played a role in the genetics of who rose to the head of the pack. But history shows otherwise. So very many other factors play into those contests. Their positions equally are determined by how they are received, supported, and valued by their subjects and by an echelon of other powerful individuals among them. How long the hard work at charitable organizations and ethical projects can justify the colossal cost of the pageantry that satisfies the popular imagination and the tourist trade remains to be seen. My grandparents believed in the Divine Right of Kings. Few people today make those connections, even in Great Britain, possibly even in the ranks if royalty .

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          Laurna – Wealth and position can be self-reinforcing, I guess, for all sorts of reasons. The folks down the chain aren’t likely to have the same “right stuff” as the originals. It’s a similar phenomenon in business, albeit a little less forgiving: new ventures rarely last 3 generations in the same family.

          • barbara carlson says:

            As for self-reinforcing, I eventually noticed the general health, grooming, low BMI of the Royals and their extensive entourage. Access to education, good food, private health care (?), peer (ha!) pressure make the hoy-polo look like overweight and sloppy seconds. I only noticed this when I saw the first heavyweight woman (of note apparently) try to climb the man steps into the Windsor Chapel with other notable invitees.

          • Isabel Gibson says:

            Barbara – A good point. Some (like Kate) are unbelievably slim, but all of them are well within their normal weight ranges. Many of the women have beautiful, thick hair (as did the Queen, I think until The End). No female-pattern baldness here. All of this speaks to the effect of good genes, good food, and a good life, really.

  3. Mary Gibson says:

    Yes, very good: “we can also find some peace and hope in institutions that separate our love of our country from its unlovable politics.” Would that we could do this (or perhaps even, “love for our fellow man”) on a daily basis.

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