Princess Diana's Funeral: A Personal Journey

By Rizzuto, Eileen F. | Contemporary Review, December 1997 | Go to article overview

Princess Diana's Funeral: A Personal Journey

Rizzuto, Eileen F., Contemporary Review

Editor's Note: The most emotional event of 1997 was the death and funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. It is appropriate therefore to end our coverage of the year with the reflections of one of our readers who flew to London to attend the funeral.

I was flicking through the channels late that Saturday night, at the end of August. Kristin (my daughter) and I were sitting on the couch together. Then, there on CNN I saw written on the screen something about Princess Diana being seriously injured in a car crash in Paris, I stopped, watched and listened in horror. As the reporting became repetitious, I'd switch off to some nature programme. However I was constantly drawn back to see the progress. 'Would Princess Diana be OK?' I thought. I felt not. I felt within my soul that she would die. But I'd hope and I'd pray. I prayed for her in the quiet of my mind as I followed the news reports. Prayers weren't to keep her alive. The report changed. She was confirmed dead. I felt numb. First I thought of her boys. I cried. This was as sad and painful, as if she were my sister. Over the next days, I watched TV and read the news when I could. I began to think myself obsessed. I finally had some time alone the next morning. As I was driving my little boat along the beautiful waters of Lake George in upstate New York, I cried and cried. How very sad I felt. What sense did this make? Such a beautiful human being stolen away from us.

By Tuesday, I was still obsessed. But why? Was I not happy in my own life? I have so much I'm thankful for. Was I unappreciative of my family? That afternoon, I wanted to call the airline for price and availability to go to London for the funeral. After all, I was alone in the house; no one would ever have to know I was even making this call. Maybe this burning desire, this compelling feeling would go away. So I called British Airways. The polite English accented gentleman on the phone quoted me the full coach fare (there'd be no bargains on this flight!) and kindly asked 'are you going to the funeral?' I was taken aback. After all, the reservationists are usually all business, no chit chat. 'Uh, yes, if I go, it'll be for the funeral' I replied. 'I'll look you up', he said 'I'm going to the funeral and I'll be on the same flight.' As I hung up, I felt strangely comforted. This man, a stranger to me, felt not so strange. Maybe I wasn't weird for wanting to go. Maybe there was some force beyond my comprehension or understanding at work here. I left the house, rode out onto the lake, speaking aloud to the clouds, to the colours of the sunset, to the mountains, trying to make some kind of sense out of it all, trying to put it in perspective. Hoping I'd come to my senses and decide I did not need to go. NOT! The next evening I shared my feelings with my husband, Phil. He smiled and encouraged me to do what I felt strongest to do. Clearly there'd be no blocks from him. It truly was my decision. Even my children Kristin and Montana responded in positive ways. I had no guilt to deal with. The road was clear if I wanted to go.

I drove to JFK Airport. I'd guessed it'd take three and a half hours. What was I thinking? Usually clear and level headed, I was going on instinct, not thinking all that clearly. During the early part of my ride, I was fortunate enough to hear the Queen's world-wide two-and-a-half-minute speech as I headed down the thruway. Her words of Diana brought tears to my eyes. A while later, my sadness turned to rage as I sat at the toll plaza for the Whitestone Bridge, hemmed in by wall to wall cars, trucks and buses. I could feel the stress, the tension rising from my toes, consuming me. I slammed my fist on the steering wheel, I shouted for help. There was little change. Then l prayed aloud 'Oh please God, help me out of this mess, help me to make that flight. I truly want to go!' It was at that moment I realized how much I wanted to be at the funeral. So here I was, a caged person trapped in this mass of steel with wheels surrounding me, cutting in and making the wait even longer. …

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