She reigned for over 70 years and earlier this month was reduced to a box on a plinth.
How humbling those images were. A figure larger than life and so ingrained into the public psyche, suddenly startlingly small; a Standard covered coffin adorned by her subjects. Adorned by the living.
Make no mistake: This is the fate that befalls us all.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Queen or a King, a saint or a sinner, a celebrity or a civilian – we all die.
To carry a sense of the inevitable with us in the hope that it makes us remember and cherish and encourages us to make the most of every minute bestowed upon us can surely only be healthy. Meditating on mortality is only depressing if you entirely miss the point.
You’d be forgiven for thinking – given the way the Queen worked throughout her reign, right until her final day – that death is something that suddenly happens. You’re alive one day and gone the next. But that’s untrue. You’ve been dying since birth. You die every day. You’re killing time by reading to this right now.
In Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman writes that our being is totally, utterly bound up with our finite amount of time. To be a human is to exist temporally, in the stretch between birth and death, certain that the end will come but unable to know when. We speak about having (or not having) time but in reality, we are time.
You happen to be alive. There’s no cosmic law that says you are owed that. You happen to be here and you can happen not to be here at any moment, be it through accident or a betrayal of your own body.
Your time is a non-renewable resource but it’s our lack of it that is precisely what makes us human. The finite nature of our lives create meaning, purpose, priority, and urgency.
I’m not religious or a monarchist but Queen Elizabeth II was, as so many commentators said the night she died, a constant – her role imposed upon her by quirk of ancient constitution – and a reminder that even the mightiest and most God-ordained, die.
Elizabeth was born April 21st 1926 and died September 8th 2022. She was 96 years old. She got 35,205 days.
Today, September 30th 2022, I am 9,995 days…
30 Sep 2022about podcast contact