|Princess Diana is gone. Like so many others, I have
been amazed and mystified by my own reaction.
I had always admired Diana. The abrupt and immense
transformation from a "nobody to a princess" (in her own
words) brought sudden fame, power, and wealth, and yet also
brought personal challenges we could all identify with. Her
marriage - doomed from the start, as we later discovered - her
subsequent eating disorders and periods of depression and despair
were stark reminders that a "royal" person is, in fact,
a person - a real human being with real human needs and feelings.
Diana, perhaps more than any other famous person in history,
taught us that each and every human, in any walk of life, is like
all others in the ways that truly matter.
Diana clearly had much to teach us about courage. She had
larger-than-life challenges that made ours seem easier by
comparison. She did not simply have personal conflicts with a
mother-in-law, but with the Queen of England. She did not simply
have a marriage doomed by her husband's love for another, but had
to face this devastating discovery under the constant surveillance
of photographers, reporters, and all the rest of us.
At times, she faltered, responding with all-too-human anger,
jealousy, and despair. But then she would somehow recover her
poise, and her generosity. She would - in the manner of a true
princess - perform a magical alchemy, turning her own private
sorrows into compassion and hope for others. In the midst of
personal trouble, she would reach out to those less fortunate -
the ill, the homeless, and those who had lost hope. She did much
of this work privately, without seeking honor or personal
recognition for it.
Diana was also a devoted mother, who had to raise her children
in extraordinary circumstances: an immense and sudden shift from a
kindergarten teacher to a princess, a troubled marriage, the glare
of publicity and lack of privacy, formidable and powerful in-laws,
and a husband raised to accept royal protocol reflecting centuries
of cold, "appropriate" behavior. She took on all of
these challenges, raising her children with as much love, warmth,
and compassion as anyone could manage in these exceptional
In her life, Diana taught her children to express their
emotions. With her untimely death, Diana single-handedly thawed
the British populace from a notoriously subdued, unemotional
reserve, into a country overcome by their grief and love for her,
gathering by the millions to express the depth of their emotion -
with each other and before the world. Diana has left - but in
taking her exit, has transformed all those she left behind,
magically multiplying herself, her love, her compassion, her
generosity, her courage, and her wisdom. In this sense - if we are
fortunate - Diana will always be with us.