Marlene Hauser

Old bell

I will wait for you

Hi Everyone,

As anyone who listens to the news almost anywhere in the world knows, H. M. Queen Elizabeth II died peacefully on the afternoon of September 8th. Earlier in the day, there had been a public announcement regarding her health, something to attract any listener’s attention as this sort of statement is not broadcast lightly. News of her family’s lightning efforts to get to her side at Balmoral did not escape public notice either.

In response to that bulletin, holding her in very high regard, I meant to post a simple, bright image of the Queen together with my thoughts and prayers for her. However, on reflection the bright yellow tint I’d chosen seemed not quite right and I quickly changed it to a luminescent black-and-white image that seemed more fitting. In it she appeared see-through, evanescent. I wished her well and took a minute to pray for – hope for – her recovery.

After the passing of her husband Prince Philip almost a year and a half ago, I am sure  I was not the only one who noticed her increasing fragility; the incongruousness of seeing her on her own, navigating steps, lecterns, walkabouts, without the looming shadow of her tall and handsome consort in the background. Prince Philip’s passing and the Queen’s carrying on solo reminded me sometimes of the famous Russian pair skaters, Ekaterina “Katia” Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov.

The future Olympians formed a professional partnership that also became a love story. Originally they were put together at ages 15 (Sergei) and 11 (Katia) as a result of their respective shortcomings: he was not a strong soloist and her jumps were weak. Together they achieved what neither could do alone, winning virtually every competition they entered, including Olympic gold twice.

Then, at the young age of 28, Sergei died of a massive heart attack and it was unclear how Ekaterina might carry on. Would she be able to compete as a solo skater? In 1996, she performed as a soloist to the theme from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but despite the high degree of technical and artistic merit she displayed, who could fail to miss the powerful guiding presence of Sergei or notice the poignancy of the music’s repeated phrase “I will wait for you”? Although Katia scored as high as second place in competition subsequently, she never again achieved what she and Sergei had realized together.

The same might have been true for Queen Elizabeth after the death of Prince Philip,  the former balance of strength and weakness at an end.

After posting my hopes for Her Majesty’s recovery, I took my Jack Russell for a walk. As I headed out alongside a fresh-smelling Oxford canal in the not quite autumnal early evening, the cloudy sky seemingly lit from below, the principal bells of Oxford began to toll.  No one had to tell me why. Queen Elizabeth II was dead.  Bells resounded for hours after that, and yet that first peal still seemed to resonate within me. It spoke not just of the Monarch’s death, but of my own eventually, and  the deaths of those I had known who had gone before. In 1624 John Donne memorably summed up the moment when the fact of our own mortality hits home:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself…
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee

Wishing you a September full of love, dignity and the ability to emulate our gracious Queen Elizabeth II in “keeping calm and carrying on”.




Photo BrianAJackson |iStock