It was the evening of July 27, 2012 and I was ready for the opening ceremony of the Olympics. The Games were being held in London, four years after extravagant and very expensive Games in Beijing. There was concern in some circles that the much smaller budget for the opening ceremony in London would pale in comparison. It didn't. It was widely viewed as a tremendous success.
Participation of the British Royal Family at the London Games was anticipated. But no one expected the Queen was about to upstage every athlete, singer and performer on the program.
Because for all its nod to iconic British landmarks, trend setting music, and the elements of history and tradition, it was the moment that had audiences taken by such complete surprise that won't soon be forgotten.
Video screens lit up with footage of James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, pulling up to the front gates of Buckingham Palace and being escorted into the throne room where we see a woman with her back to the camera playing the Queen. Except it was no actress. It was the Queen herself who greeted her guest with the words, "Good evening, Mr. Bond." The two then headed out of the palace and into an awaiting helicopter and were flown across the city and high above the stadium. A stunt double dressed just as the Queen had been, jumped from the helicopter into the stadium as the Queen herself emerged in the royal box, much to the delight of all.
She had another surprise in store 10 years later. In the midst of a list of luminaries that were invited to perform for her platinum jubilee, she again stole the show in the video of her tea party with Paddington Bear, sharing not only a cup of tea, but a marmalade sandwich as well. It was a sweet moment and the smile on the Queen’s face seemed so heartfelt.
When so much of royal duty seems to require one to be so proper, it was moments of seeing her sense of humor that made her endearing. She was at the White House in 2007 when President Bush misspoke and said the Queen joined in helping Americans celebrate their bicentennial in 1776. Meaning to say 1996, he corrected the error right away but the Queen decided she would have some fun with it. Two days later as she began her address at a formal dinner she remarked, “I wondered whether I should start this toast by saying, ‘When I was here in 1776…’”
There was tremendous loss of life this week, here within our province and around the world. A few of the people we know. A blues singer. A journalist. A monarch. Some we learned. Bonnie Goodvoice-Burns. Wesley Petterson. Christian Head, and too many others. More we will never know.
I was 18-years old when my father died unexpectedly. A couple of days later I remember being surrounded by friends and we were laughing. In the midst of such sorrow, we laughed. Those observing from the outside might have wondered if it was callous; perhaps disrespectful. It wasn’t. It was healing, refreshing and it allowed such good memories to rise to the top and nudge a touch of sadness away, if only for the moment.
I watched the families of some victims of the stabbings speak to the media. At one point someone shared a memory and it made them laugh. Good for them, I remember thinking. As they walk through their grief, they need to grab hold of those moments that bring a smile and some laughter.
In glimpses the public has been given into some of those who were killed, we heard words like kind-hearted, lovely, devoted to the community, died helping others, caring, and more.
Likewise, there are many descriptors being used to honor Queen Elizabeth II: duty, devotion, service, enduring, loyalty. Those facets of her life and character are certainly apt. But there are other aspects too. It’s her smile and her laugh that come through as you watch the footage of her carrying out the duties her role required. She found joy in service and in concern for the welfare of others. In a speech in 2008 she said, “Over the years, those who have seemed to me to be the most happy, contented and fulfilled have always been the people who have lived the most outgoing and unselfish lives.”
That can be said of some of those who died in such a tragic way in our province—and in many other places around the world. But in their life, they lived serving others. They sought to bring joy. May the Queen, and all those who lived that way, be remembered like that. Thank you, Your Majesty. That’s my outlook.