Of course, yesterday’s death of Queen Elizabeth took over conversation worldwide. I thought for a while on the role thrust upon her, then, on how other people have dealt with a sudden burden. Scale may be irrelevant – I’m not done thinking about this yet.
Perhaps your healthy partner suddenly needs full-time care, or, more in parallel to the subject, a company CEO’s tasks must suddenly be assumed. Regardless of the scenario, what these have in common is plans and dreams changed, forever.
I’ve never seen this next thing talked about. It’s only after my surprised reading between the lines of a book that I’ve come to my next idea.
The man the world knew as Mr. Rogers, Fred Rogers, was passionate about becoming a songwriter. He went to college to get better at music, meeting Joanne, the woman who’d become his wife. She has said he was the darling of their college crowd of future artists, always at the piano. The shiny-eyed youth approached music publishers, only to be told – go write a barrel-full of songs, and then come back. No problem. This future star was in the groove.
But, here’s the thing – he couldn’t break through to do this thing that was so dear to him. It’s likely the songs we heard him play on his show were simplified for his young audience, but they don’t “stick” in my mind, as musical competitor Schoolhouse Rock still does. I haven’t heard of anyone re-recording Mr Rogers’ “barrelful of songs.” But in pursuing music he found another outlet – broadcasting to children. He applied his principles to his new line of work, and the world swept him, and his imaginary-come-true world, to its heart. If you never read Esquire writer Tom Junod’s cover story on Mr Rogers, is now a good time?
We all saw what Mr Rodgers and Queen Elizabeth did when enveloped by an all-consuming job. Were they always slightly better than us, or does it mean we ordinary people are better people than we’ve seen evidence of? Can it be that if we only had some higher calling, we’d be put into a state of our right work; a transformation, such as Jon Stewart or Forrest Gump’s Lt Dan actor Gary Sinese underwent? Is shelter the root of our restless, petulant consumerism? Are all of us living moth’s lives?
Being the Queen of England hadn’t been in Elizabeth’s plans, but she took it on and made it hers. She stepped into harness and threw the reins to Parliament and to the British people, enduring the constant gaze and gossip, but she’s no saint. She failed at several family relationships, making her just like us. I feel I see the real Elizabeth in the photos of her I like best – informal, with her horses or her pets; the latter refined into a media-friendly, carmel-and-cream herd of corgis.
People ignored her sacrifices to judge and ridicule her final, most noble task: ensuring the newest Prime Minister was safely embedded in the office.
Look at that last photo of the Queen in front of the fireplace as part of any montage of her. It’s clear she’s smaller; bent with pain. Yet there’s her professional, welcoming smile, ready to do the job at hand – ensuring a peaceful transfer of power governing her country. Well done, Ma’am.