Do you remember the day Princess Diana died? I remember it quite well. I was in the living room of our house with my oldest daughter, who was just a couple of months old. The phone rang. It was my aunt (frequent commenter Elaine, for those who enjoy making connections), telling me to turn on the TV. Princess Diana had been in a car accident.
Wow. That was shocking! I turned on the TV, where the event was being covered in detail. First there were reports that she had possibly broken her arm. The commentators kept hemming and hawing, the way anchors often do during 24/7 new situations. But eventually, one announced that Diana, Princess of Wales, had died in Paris.
I was shocked. If you’ve read here for any amount of time, you know that Princess Diana was a huge part of my life. No, I’d never met her. But she was one of those figures who for whatever reason captured my imagination as a teen. I’d followed her as she got married, had kids, charmed the world, and then watched much of her life fall apart. She could almost always be found on a magazine cover or on a TV show. And now, suddenly she was dead? It didn’t seem possible.
A Week of Grief
The next week passed in a sort of daze. We went to church the next day and the pastor, who rarely mentions current events, made reference to Diana dying. Throughout the week, news coverage was nonstop showing the miles-long line in London to sign the condolence book, shots of sobbing crowds, images of the ocean of flowers in front of Kensington Palace. When would the royal family return from their Scotland summer vacation to London? Would they lower the flag at Buckingham Palace to half-mast?
One day that next week, I took my 3-month-old daughter to a garage sale and I remember the woman having the sale had a TV playing the coverage in her garage. All of us there were discussing the event. It was very surreal.
A week after Diana’s death, I tuned in for the entire funeral. I taped it with the VCR — although even as I was doing this, I wondered why. I have never watched it again. It was so depressing; who would want to? The shots of somber Prince Charles, both their sons, Prince Philip, and Charles Spencer walking the route to Westminster Abbey. The lovely music, the lovely scenes, but the overwhelming reality of the reason for all this. Two boys without a mother. That heartbreaking little white bouquet on the casket, with the card bearing the hand-lettered “Mummy” on it.
I was struck with sadness too because I didn’t feel any assurance that Diana was a Christian. At Christian funerals, there is the consolation of seeing the person again in heaven. Here, there was none of that feeling. Diana may well have been a Christian, yet I never heard her make any reference to that (and in her private moments — most of which have somehow become public by now — she was pretty forthcoming about almost everything). She’d made references before about a belief in reincarnation, and was often seen in churches in her role as a royal, but that was about it. This funeral was just a really sad, hopeless affair.
Do you have any specific memories of Princess Diana’s death and funeral?