Dear Mom and Dad,
I was too young to know where I was when Diana, Princess of Wales, died. All I can remember is Mom recounting her death to me years later. We were sitting in the dimmed living room of the triplex we were evicted from when I was ten years old. The light of the TV flickered over us. Maybe that was back when Mom slept on the floor in a nest of blankets and pillows every night, more than likely as part of a quarrel with Dad. Sometimes, my sister and I joined her.
Either way, Mom subscribed to the conspiracy theory that Diana’s car crash was no accident, but, rather, that the royal family had assassinated her. Or, at least, you said that was what you believed – it wasn’t always easy to tell where your sense of humor began or ended, especially when I was a child.
But regardless, as I grew up to learn more about Diana in the years after you and Dad died within three weeks of each other in 2006, I found myself aching to leave behind the same gracious legacy as she did. I even entertained the notion of studying social work in undergraduate school, and though I ultimately decided against it, I think it’s still in me to reach out and redeem somebody a world away like Diana did to me, as if to be remembered for something “good” despite my own disabling unhappiness.
It’s true that I may be more of a “literary” journalist than an investigative reporter, but that doesn’t mean I can’t show even one of my readers how to live with the grief Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, endured when he lost his own mother in Diana.
To catch you up to speed, Mom and Dad, Harry and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex formerly known as Meghan Markle, claim they recently survived a high-speed paparazzi chase in New York City reminiscent of the one that killed Diana in Paris. Mom, I can picture you following the story on the twenty-four-hour cable news cycle no less fanatically than you would have watched Harry and Meghan’s wedding, telephoning Grandma every once in a while about the parallels between Diana and Harry’s respective encounters with the press.
Having stayed home from class enough times for the school to take our family to court over attendance, I can attest that the news was your answer to daytime television, which is perhaps why you had the intelligence to match your instability.
In any case, what Harry went through would have been frightful for anyone, but doubtless his mother’s memory flashed across his mind in much the same way the cameras burst outside his and Meghan’s car. What would it have done to him to relive what happened to her when he was still a boy, the same age I was when I lost my mom, too?
Not to speak for Harry, but I know what it’s like to go about my day with the same vulnerabilities that consumed each one of you, Mom and Dad. After I had my wisdom teeth removed in 2012, I almost didn’t dip into my Vicodin prescription for fear of ending up like you, Mom (until the agony forced my hand). And Dad, with every drink I take at an office lunch or during a party, I run the risk of craving one too many and ruining my life, or worse.
As for Harry, he was born into the life of a public figure through no choice of his own, and all he could do was bear witness to the masses crucifying his mother (as though he were just another estranged onlooker), only to go on living that same lifestyle – helpless to avoid it – until it nearly destroyed him, too. I wonder how many other children of deceased parents can identify with this fatalism – what is the quasi-inevitability of outliving a parent, if not a confrontation with one’s own mortality and fallibility?
No, I applaud Harry and Meghan for attempting to distance themselves from these dangerous patterns with as much vigor as I would celebrate anyone else for trying to do the same – myself included.
What could you have done differently, Mom and Dad, to take control and change your own destinies?