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A Tribute to Princess Diana

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 circumstances.

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.

Quote of the month: Princess Diana

Portuguese translation

Jan Hunt, M.Sc., offers counseling worldwide, with a focus on parenting and unschooling. She is the Director of The Natural Child Project and author of The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart and A Gift for Baby.