where were you…

…when Diana, the Princess of Wales died? I can only think of one other person for whom that question has been asked…John F. Kennedy, our President. I know I was in school when he died, because classes were suspended. Instead we all walked to church to pray for him. In Diana’s case I think I was asleep, and learned with disbelief, about her death early the next morning.

Unlike President Kennedy‘s death of which so much has been written, documented, and analyzed in books and on TV shows, Diana’s death has been treated more gingerly it seems, at least here in the U.S. Either that, or I didn’t bother to read about it in the tabloid magazines because of their tendency to sensationalize the facts to make a profit. I didn’t set out to learn about them even now, they just fell into my lap, by way of Sarah Bradford’s Diana – Finally, The Complete Story

I chose to share this with you because as in life, in death Diana’s beauty remained intact. Her serene appearance belied the inner damage that resulted from the horrific car accident.

It took almost an hour to free Diana from the wrecked car. She appeared to her rescuers to be the least injured of the four: only a slight trickle of blood from mouth and nose indicated that anything was wrong. Yet her internal injuries were life- threatening. After the initial impact the Mercedes had spun away, rotating at high speed before crashing into the tunnel wall on the right. At the first impact Dodi and Diana had been thrown violently forward against the backs of the front seats (not having worn their seat belts), then the rotation of the car had flung them around against the interior. When the Mercedes finally stopped, pointing back towards the mouth of the tunnel, Diana was slumped on the floor, against the back of Rees-Jones‘s seat, facing down the tunnel. Her legs were twisted, one under her, the other on the seat. With her eyes closed and her face undamaged apart from a cut on her forehead, she looked beautiful and as if she were asleep. But the shock of the impact and deceleration on her body had displaced her heart from the left to the right side, severing the pulmonary vein and rupturing the pericardium (the protective sac round the heart), flooding her chest cavity with blood. …

Photo of the Chapel at the Pitié-Salpêtrière H...

Image via Wikipedia

Yet to the first doctor on the scene, Frederic Mailliez, who had been driving through the tunnel in the opposite direction, she ‘looked pretty fine…I thought this woman had a chance.’ He put an oxygen mask over her face while attempting to clear her air passages. When the ambulance arrived, Dr. Jan-Marc Martino, a surgical anesthetist and resuscitation specialist, worked on Diana. Before they could transfer her to the ambulance, she suffered a heart attack. She was given cardiac massage and a respiratory tube was inserted into her mouth. Then she was lifted on to a stretcher and placed in the ambulance which crawled its way with a police escort to La Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, stopping once on the way as Diana’s blood pressure dropped to a dangerous level. She was put on a ventilator. ‘She was unconscious and under artificial respiration. Her arterial blood pressure was very low but her heart was still beating. X-rays revealed the horrific state of her internal injuries and afterwards she suffered a second heart attack. An incision in her chest revealed that bleeding was coming through a hole in the membrane round her heart and later that her superior left pulmonary vein was torn. Adrenalin was administered and cardiac massage kept her heart going but only just; there was no independent rhythm. Diana was to all intents and purposes already beyond help. Electric-shock therapy was administered, to no effect. At 4 a.m. (3 a.m. British time) on the morning of 31 August, she was pronounced dead.

Charles, Prince of Wales outside the White Hou...

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And while it was rumored at the time that Diana allegedly spoke a few words to Prince Charles, that was obviously not the case. “When Prince Charles and Diana’s sisters arrived in Paris, they found Diana looking serene and composed in death, wearing Lady Jay’s black cocktail dress and shoes, her hair freshly blow-dried, the rosary which Mother Teresa had given her in her hand. After Charles and her sisters had spent time alone with her, she was placed in a coffin for the return journey.” 

According to those who accompanied the hearse through the streets of Paris, there was an outpouring of support for the People’s Princess.

‘They do it differently in Paris–they applaud. With the coffin, Prince Charles, the President, millions of police by now,…and the vicar (the Rev. Martin Draper), the whole of Paris was applauding…

Sadly Diana’s body was not received with the same honor bestowed upon it by the Parisians and the British masses, when it came to rest in the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace. Good friend, and the woman thought to have been most like a mother to the princess, Lucia Flecha de Lima flew from the U.S., where she lived, to London, upon learning of Diana’s death. To her amazement the coffin lay “…in lonely state, without flowers.”

Flowers for Princess Diana's Funeral

Image by Maxwell Hamilton via Flickr

‘The first day when I arrived at the chapel there was not one single flower on her coffin. Then I said to the chaplain that if he didn’t allow flowers in, I would throw open the doors of the chapel so everyone could see her there without a single flower and all the flowers outside that people had brought. I said, “Tomorrow I’ll come back with my flowers for her.” And I came every day. And from then on I brought flowers, not only mine but from friends and people who knew her. And I went to a flower van outside the Michelin restaurant (Bibendum in the Fulham Road) and he said: “What are they for?” And I told him, and every day after that he insisted I take flowers to her for nothing…’ ‘And they (the flowers) were around her, over her coffin representing the flowers of the world, and I said to Prince Charles, “These flowers represent the people, thousands and millions of flowers all around the world that people want to give to Princess Diana.” I’ve never felt like that in my life. I have experienced personal loss…but the public’s reaction was extraordinary…’

 One other item mentioned in Bradford’s book caught my attention. While Queen Elizabeth seemingly struggled with her decision to recognize Diana’s death with the pomp and circumstance demanded by the people, personally she too had to deal with the passing of her former daughter-in-law, the mother of the queen’s beloved grand-children. Bradford wrote of Dickie Arbiter, the most experienced of royal officers who had worked for the Waleses before their divorce,

The coffin passing through one of the streets.

Image via Wikipedia

Contrary to public perception, the Queen was, Arbiter said, ‘very grief-stricken’ by Diana’s death. ‘On the day of the funeral when the Royal Family came out of Buckingham Palace as the gun carriage carrying Diana’s coffin passed, the Queen bowed. And the only other time that the Queen bows is at the Cenotaph.’

…there are the rumors…there are the myths…and then there’s…the truth…hugmamma.

Rose, Diana Princess of Wales

Image by nekonomania via Flickr

…princess diana…england’s rose…

 

Diana, Princess of Wales, at the Cannes film f...

Image via Wikipedia

 

siblings

Most of us are born into families with other children. Siblings are a complicated group. They needn’t be, but most often they are. Finding our niches within the hierarchical order is tricky business. There is usually a pecking order. And it normally runs oldest to youngest, with the latter having no one to peck on, so to speak.

Perceptions of life are affected by our own lives, so they’re necessarily skewed by what our brain interprets of the goings on around us. Obviously these interpretations are our truths, not necessarily lining up with those of others. This isn’t to say they’re not valid, for to us they are.

One of the truisms in life, I think, is that we should listen, really listen, to what someone is saying. We tend to hear what we want to hear. I wonder why that is? It’s almost as though we’re only using one ear. This is definitely the case in most marriages, mine included. But I guess when 2 strangers get together, there’s a lot to sort out, and for marriages to survive there needs to be give-and-take, a lot of it.

Give-and-take among siblings is another matter. When they live under the same roof it’s probably essential, to minimize the bloodshed. But when they’ve left the roost to find their own way in the world, coming together again can be, as I said, tricky.

I’m 61 and the youngest of 9. It’s not easy to throw off the mantel of “kid sister.” I don’t often see my siblings, so the issue rarely comes up. Nonetheless, it’s not an easy position to occupy, especially when I’ve successfully led my life outside the hierarchy. I’ve never been able to say to any of my siblings “I think you should do this.” Not that I would want to do so. I think they’re all just fine as they are. Just as I couldn’t tell a stranger how to live her life, I couldn’t do so with family. I could only offer advice and support, if asked.

I have great admiration for my husband and his siblings, always have. I’ve known them for nearly 41 years, having interacted with them  much more when he and I were dating. The last 30 years or so we’ve lived on the mainland, away from the rest of them. There was obviously a hierarchy among the 12 siblings, but it wasn’t overtly apparent to me. The camaraderie among them was palpable, still is. The banter back and forth among sisters and brothers is light, fun, loving. There’s no heavy talk about setting and achieving goals, working at better jobs, pressure to attend college. Not that these aren’t important. But I think my husband and his siblings set examples for one another. They led the way, they didn’t point in the direction and say “Go do it.” They just did it.

The pattern of showing by example has filtered down to all our nieces and nephews. Many have graduated from colleges on the mainland, and some have traveled outside the country, even as far away as Australia, one nephew living in Mongolia as a Mormon missionary for a couple of years. There is excitement within the family whenever we gather, catching up with one another, getting better acquainted with newborns, or children who’ve grown up in our absence. No matter the lives they lead, there is equality among my husband and his siblings, and their children and their cousins. And it’s for certain, they’ve all “got each other’s backs,” that’s OHANA, Hawaiian for family.

My mother-and-father-inlaw, and their marriage of 40 + years before he died, are to be credited for their successful, love-by-example raising of 12 children. A legacy they have surely left to all who come after. I’m very fortunate to have found love and comfort under the shelter of my in-laws welcoming “umbrella” these many years.

for everyone coming in out of the “rain”…hugs…hugmamma.