Brickner: The measure of a life

Columnist Joan Brickner reflects on the life and death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Joan Brickner, Forum Readers Board
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As a child, I would often grab a volume of “World Book Encyclopedia” before slipping into a squeaky plastic-covered chair in the living room. Sometimes I would read about the English monarchy, fascinated by their twisted and bloody history.

Still, the outpouring of grief towards the death of its longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, seems over the top in American media. You would think she was our queen, that we hunger for monarchy.

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Of course, there is much to admire about the late queen. In contrast to a current crop of divisive, loud-mouthed characters promoting lies, vulgarity and violence, she showed restraint, dignity and grace, in fulfilling her duties. She claimed a quiet Christian faith that never imposed. “Wild” Mick Jagger, of the Rolling Stones, said, “For my whole life Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II has always been there…the much beloved grandmother of the nation.” A safe harbor.

I find it laughable, however, when people speak of the “sacrifices” she made. Perhaps it was not the private life she craved, but she was well compensated. At her death, she was worth approximately $12 billion, enriched by centuries of colonial power. Buckingham Palace alone spans 830,000 square feet, with 50 bedrooms. As Anthony Hopkins’ character said in “The Edge,” “Never feel sorry for a man who owns a plane.” This woman accessed, if not owned, dozens.

Sacrifice is a part of a good life, however. She once said, “Grief is the price we pay for love.” A beautiful sentiment, but is it true?


Grief is ONE price, but we pay before loss, with patience, hard work and caretaking. As my mother said, “It costs you something to get your love across.”

My parents sacrificed to pay for and to transport me to and from a school outside our horrible district.

My late friend Dixie Fjeld sacrificed many long hours to check thousands of business letters for her students at M|State. That’s love, too.

Poet Mary Oliver wrote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?” In my faith, love and service are the measurements of success.

Despite grand tributes and elaborate ceremonies, Queen Elizabeth II died empty handed. Psalm 49 says,

So don’t be impressed with those who get rich
and pile up fame and fortune. They can’t take it with them….

We aren’t immortal. We don’t last long.
Like our dogs, we age and weaken. And die.

She possesses no more than her beloved corgis.


Our lives have value, no matter our position. Moses thought he had nothing to contribute, but God asked him this simple question, “What is in your hand?” What tools do you have to love and to serve?

In responding, through years of suffering and abuse, Moses later received the most spectacular, quiet tribute. Deuteronomy says, “And He [the Lord] buried him in a valley in the land of Moab…but no one knows his grave to this day.” God himself provided that intimate, powerful send-off. What could be more grand? Moses claimed no wealth, but left his words and his example.

We won’t receive such drama. In determining how to live, however, we can answer this question, “What is in your hand?”

Interested in a broad range of issues, including social and faith issues, Brickner serves as a regular contributor to the Forum’s opinion page. She is a retired English instructor, having taught in Michigan and Minnesota.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

Brickner writes, "Some call this the “politics of distraction.” We must not drag attention away from real issues to sideshows.

Opinion by Joan Brickner
Interested in a broad range of issues, including social and faith issues, Joan Brickner serves as a regular contributor to the Forum’s opinion page. She is a retired English instructor, having taught in Michigan and Minnesota.

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