Imagine devoting six decades to something. A nything.
In a world where speed rules, where job-hopping has become a necessity, where marriages are short-lived and our collective attention spans the breadth of a gnat’s wings, sticking with something for 60 years is a magnificent accomplishment.
Queen Elizabeth has done that. She celebrated her Diamond Jubilee this week with parades, concerts, festivals and block parties. These public events were the fun part, the part we witnessed on TV while listening to commentary on the royal family’s sartorial splendor.
I suspect — actually, I can guarantee — that plenty of not-so-fun duties have filled those decades. In fact, the Queen had to participate in several jubilee events without her husband, Prince Philip, who was hospitalized with a bladder infection.
Her resolve to soldier on wasn’t lost on her subjects, who gave her a deafening ovation.
“If her mood was at all somber,” gushed The Telegraph, a British newspaper, “it did not show as she beamed at the crowds.”
Much fun has been poked and criticism leveled at Queen Elizabeth — her silly hats, her stiff upper lip and just-as-stiff regal wave and, of course, the perceived coldness with which she responded to the death of Princess Diana.
There may be merit in those complaints. Yet I can’t help but admire the queen’s sense of duty, her commitment to service and country, even her stoicism.
These old-fashioned values have fallen out of favor, along with loyalty, responsibility and sacrifice. We live in a time when any thought, no matter how shallow or insulting, can be instantly offered up for mass consumption through a dizzying array of social media. Exhibitionism is the ticket to fame and fortune, or at least to the starring role in a reality TV pilot.
What’s more, oversharing is as common as … well, as the need for instant gratification. Self-control? What’s that?
Miraculous as it is, the Internet has fostered coarseness and commonness in human interactions. Against that backdrop, Queen Elizabeth’s reserve seems hopelessly out of place, her insistence on propriety an aberration. But it’s her perseverance, her longevity, her very British plough-through-it-all-steadfastness that I most admire. We could use more of it.
Several months ago, my attention was caught by the story of an Iowa husband and wife, ages 94 and 90, who died an hour apart, holding hands, after 72 years of marriage.
When a good friend’s mother died recently, the grieving widower sat in a hard chair at the funeral home, his back erect, his expression dejected. When I approached him to offer a small measure of comfort, tears welled in his eyes. “Sixty-two years,” he whispered in a quavering voice. “Sixty-two years, a lifetime.”
Indeed. Sixty-two, or 72, or 60, is more than a lifetime. It’s a triumph.
Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.