Death, Covid and the Royals…

I’m thinking about death.

That seems strange, doesn’t it? Death is something we ignore. We don’t like talking about it because we don’t understand it and we don’t want to face it. It’s sad and awful and we wish we didn’t have to deal with it. We don’t know what to say to people whose loved ones have died, and we can’t imagine how we will deal with the death of those dearest to us.

I am writing this on the occasion of two very different deaths, which, for some reason, have impacted me profoundly. The first, is the death of my nephew – who ironically, was more like my cousin as he was one year younger than me. He died of Covid suddenly. He was in the hospital for 4 days and seemed to be improving, however, this catastrophic killer of lives took over. It was a shock, really, to learn of his death. I feel guilty, because I lost touch with him over the years. Yet, there is a deep fondness and a connection to my youth that his death reminds me of. 

You see, I spent a glorious summer in 1990 with my nephew and his adoring family in Nairobi, Kenya. I was 24, and had never travelled alone so far from home. The summer I spent with them in their elaborate home of love and laughter will always remain deep in my soul. We were reckless and crazy and had such fun. I remember he picked me up from the airport and I was shy and scared, and he confidently led me to security and love and I’ll never forget that. Since that time we had lost touch. We got married and had our own children and followed our own paths across the world from each other. Yet, when I got news of his death – it was like I was transported back to Kenya. To that time when we drove with the top down of his convertible and I inhaled deeply the distinct scent of that which is Africa. My heart aches for him. I wonder if it aches for him alone, or for that reckless abandon of my youth which he reminds me of? 

Photo courtesy of National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque. Library and Archives Canada,

The other death I am referring to is that of Prince Philip – Duke of Edinburgh. I know nothing of him, really, other than the almost 100 years he graced this world, and his marriage to the Queen of England. I’ve always had a fascination with the Royals, and particularly the relationship with the Queen and her husband. How do two people stay together for generations? With such love and admiration for one another? 

I don’t know exactly what the connection is, with the death of my nephew and Prince Phillip. I do know that it doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what status you obtain or what wealth you accumulate, or what accomplishments you achieve. Ultimately, we are all human beings, who have doubts, fears, aspirations, dreams. Why do we place such differences upon each other? We are, at our core, made from the same stuff. It is our experiences, our luck of the draw in terms of where we are born and in what circumstances, which make us different.

Who is to say that my nephew is better or worse than the royalty that was Prince Phillip? Our lives, and those lives we touch, are made better by our living it to the best of our capabilities. Whether you are a Prince, or a pauper – life is precious. We must all honour it, respect it, enjoy it, and remember that death is a stage of life. What happens beyond it is unknown. Who knows? Perhaps Prince Phillip and my nephew will meet  and enjoy a cup of English tea together – or, better yet – a pint of KenyanTusker beer.