Monday, August 31, 2009

Lives and deaths of princesses


Today when I logged onto a website, this greeted me:

On this day in 1997, Princess Diana died.

I remember this day in 1997, very well. It was Labor Day weekend and I was at a friend's parents' lakehouse in Conroe with my then-boyfriend when the news came on that Princess Di had been involved in a horrible accident. I stayed glued to the TV, calling my cousin Martha every thirty minutes or so to compare news. This was pre-internet, pre-texting - we had only the television to keep us posted.

Around 1am, the news came that she was indeed dead. I burst into tears in the strange kitchen. Then-boyfriend was sweet enough to hug me, admitting that he could not begin to comprehend why I was so upset about the death of what he considered a ditzy basketcase married to a total jerk.

Several days later, I taped the funeral of the ditzy basketcase on my VCR and watched it when I got home from work, sobbing.

On July 29, 1981, I was 11 years old when my friend Regina's mom woke us up at 4am so that we could watch the Royal Wedding. We laid on the floor in our jammies for hours, absorbing every detail transmitted to the huge console TV. When Prince William was born, we jumped for joy around the living room, teaching Regina's two year old brother to say, "It's a boy! It's a boy!"

For every Christmas and birthday, I received hard back picture books of Diana detailing every diamond and pearl choker, fashionable hat and shoulder padded jacket - my mother recently brought them all over, I must have 20 or 25. I wrote a paper on her in sixth grade. I played with Princess Di paperdolls. I had white flats just like her's, and wore sailor dresses in her honor. In seventh grade I stood in the mirror wearing a rhinestone tiara and holding the babydoll that I still played with, pretending that I was Her Royal Highness Princess Melissa, married to the very handsome Prince Andrew, mother to the beautiful baby Princess Alexandra Catherine Diana Melissa, sister-in-law - and BFF - to Princess Diana.

By the time I was in college, the rumors of affairs by both Diana and Charles were common. In 1995 I watched the tell-all interview she gave the BBC, describing the train wreck that was her marriage, and her life, wearing a lovely blue designer dress. In 1996 they divorced. As part of the divorce, she lost her title of Her Royal Highness. A year later she died, killed in a car driven by her drunk chauffeur.

It still amazes me that the woman who had everything, had absolutely nothing. Does the irony of that still shock you too? When I was 11, I wanted to be her. I wanted a (much handsomer) prince, I wanted the jewels, the fame, the clothes, the hair, the cute babies, the palaces, the travel, the admiration, the tiaras, the balls, the title of Princess.

But the whole time, Di was flat out miserable. She was a wonderful mother who sought great joy from her sons, this much about her is indisputed. But - you think you have inlaw problems? Try the Queen of England not liking you. You think your husband can be a cad? Try reading about his affairs in the tabloids.

Only two months before she was killed with her new boyfriend, her heart had been broken by another man, who rejected her even though she had agreed to convert to Islam to marry him.

She was a sad, lonely little girl, carrying wounds from her parents' dysfunctional marriage, who believed her father loved his new wife more than his children, who never felt like she fit in, prone to drama, who desperately sought love from the completely unreliable men in her life to fill the gaping hole in her heart.

Take away the tiaras and the wardrobe and the nine inches she had on me in height, and Di and I were virtual twins.

Soon after her death, then-boyfriend broke up with me, like they always did. I was devastated, like I always was.

But then I found myself in a bible study. And began to get into the Word of God. And the hole began to be filled by a Father who would take away the pain of my parents' dysfunctional marriage, of a father who chose other things over me, of the feeling of never fitting in, of the desperate drive to find a man to love me.

I learned of a Father who would never leave me or forsake me, who loved me far more than I could ever grasp, who gave his own son's life that I - messed up, prone to drama, sinful me - may approach his throne with confidence crying out Daddy!

In that Word I learned that I was the daughter of the King, a true princess with a title that can never be revoked, bride to the Prince of Heaven, clothed in righteousness, wearing a tiara not of diamonds but of love and compassion.

The desperation transferred from the need to find a man to make me happy to a need to get to know this God, the one who whispered - okay, not whispered, because I am a little hard of hearing, but shouted repeatedly in my ear:

It is better to take refuge in the LORD
Than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
Than to trust in princes.
Psalm 118:8-9

Oh, poor, sweet Diana. I wish you had known this too.

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