Today, one day following the anniversary of Diana’s death, I wonder how we cannot feel compassion for her, as she tried to do what was called upon her to do as a member of the Royal Family, whose burdens are so formidable! In The Diana Chronicles, her meticulously researched 2007 biography, Tina Brown writes that for us to even imagine what it might be like to be in the Royal Family we should think of the worst aspects of our own jobs and then just do just the parts that bore us the most…
Year after year…
With no possibility of retirement.
Girl of 20 that she was, she could not have known what she was in for until after she marched down that aisle, Brown writes; could never have imagined ahead of time what Brown calls “the oldness, the coldness, the deadness of Royal life, its muffled misogyny, its whispering silence, its stifling social round confronting sycophantic strangers.” She must have felt plain marooned in those vast palaces, especially after her divorce, often dining alone in her room, her much-loved children off with their father.
Anyway I think about her at this time every year, in the days surrounding the anniversary of her passing, and about Mother Theresa too, who left this life just five days later:
Diana with her heart’s delicate roots ripped from its seated place in that Paris tunnel.
Mother Theresa, with the new revelation that at some point decades earlier her sure shining faith became infused with an all-too-human doubt.
I think also of Elvis alone in the bathroom at the time of his death.
And of course I think of our candle-in-the-wind Norma Jean Baker, simply Marilyn to the world, who, like Diana, was also just 36 when she died.
Her morgue photo shows her with her clean young hair still wet from the shower.
Maybe it’s odd that we probably all know that picture but anyone who has Internet connection can see it. Maybe it’s odd that so very many of us know and remember the details of these deaths. They are two of our deepest urges I think: to hold in memory, and to speak of what we remember. As billowing August rounds each year into its quieter sister month I light a candle to both.
And now, for yourself today these two lovely montages: First regarding Diana, with Elton John’s time-of-her-death adaptation of the song he initially wrote for Marilyn – that one is here – and the second of Marilyn herself, in all her sad beauty and vulnerability.