Yesterday the queen visited Leicester. Rather to my surprise I found myself sitting in Leicester Cathedral a short distance from her majesty among the faith leaders who had been invited to the commemoration service for her diamond jubilee.

Sixty years is a long time to be doing any job, and, as I sat, musing on the feisty elderly woman who sat there on the old carved wooden chair, dressed in a fushia pink outfit and matching hat, accompanied by her clearly frail but still robustly present husband and her incredibly tall and bony grand-daughter in law, made even taller by her towering heels, I wondered what she must be thinking.

In my youth I scorned the monarchy, refusing to stand for the national anthem and sidling out of the cinema as quickly as I could before its ominous first drum roll sounded - yes, in those days we stood up, or at least were expected to. More recently, however, I have softened my views. I have come to realise that my life has been framed by the life of this aging woman as surely as by my own parents. She has been a continuity; always God save the queen, never the king in my time.

Ten years ago I saw the queen for the first time. I was attending a multi-faith reception as part of the golden jubilee in my role as chair of the Network of Buddhist Organisations. Against my principles I found myself rather excited by the prospect of going to the palace. I was in robes then. A symbol of my faith and role, unquestioningly representative of my position. I found the whole experience much more interesting than I had expected. In fact I was impressed. What I noticed then was the humanity of this woman. Watching her talking with the many people in the crowd, I observed how she engaged with people with genuine interest and concern. Her eyes lit up as she listened to their stories.

So, this time, ten years on, I found myself observing this small family group in a more formal setting. Seated at the front of the cathedral in full view of all of the congregation, I watched their faces and wondered what they made of it all. In particular, as Bishop Tim gave his address, I noticed the queen's face soften, grow pensive and some shadow of emotion rise almost imperceptibly, to be swallowed back. Prince Philip, beside her, watched her with an unwavering but kindly expression. I found myself deeply moved at the pathos of the intimacy I felt that I was observing in so public a place.

So it must be to look back over a lifetime. An extraordinary life, not for its achievements, though maybe there were some, but simply for its existence. I imagine the royal mind, scanning back through archives of state visits and shaken hands, travel by train and plane and ship to foreign parts or through the cities of her own realm. The family tragedies and joys, played out on the magnified stage of public media, and private moments on vast estates in wild places.

I wonder, does she ask as so many of us, What is it all for?

What is the meaning of a life? And what its value? Fortune throws us all into spaces we cannot anticipate and somehow, out of them, we create a story. Do we look back with gratitude or regret, bitterness or humilitude? wistfulness or anger? The end of life is indeed bittersweet. A soft encounter with the horizon which was always there, but which we have avoided for so long, the misted yugen quality in which old amplitudes reduce into a faint shadow of the past.

And so I sit, contemplating her contemplation. The bishop comments on the integrity of faith which has guided her majesty through her life and work, and in her face I see that she takes this seriously. Yes, only by faith can we be in this uncertainty.

Later she shakes my hand. An elderly lady, but still robust, she looks bright eyed, but does not connect with me as she moves on along the line of people in the foyer before the celebratory lunch. Perhaps she is still preoccupied with thoughts of time unfolding. Perhaps she is grasped by the vision of her calling by divine right to monarchy all those years ago. Perhaps she is thinking of the service, the dancing girls with lighted candles, the choir of children, the lonely strains of a single cello. Perhaps she knows it is all illusory, all impermanent, all in flux and disintegration, yet all, in the moment, wonderful.

I wipe the tears from my own eyes, and feel the soaring longing in my heart for lost connections and time moved on. Impermanence has a subtle beauty that leaves no regret to haunt us. I still have years that she has not, and yet the pathos of change touches me too. No longer disguised from view by my robe, I am in lay clothing now. Suddenly I feel exposed. Maybe indeed the preoccupation was mine after all.

The bishop said that the queen had confided in him that she was touched by the service. I though so. I smile and wonder if I will meet her again on her seventieth jubilee - and where we will both be by then. 

 

 

 

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Comment by Joely Hayes on March 11, 2012 at 18:39

Thanks for sharing this Caroline - I felt like I was watching her too for a while. Fascinating insight into both of your lives!

 

Comment by caroline brazier on March 11, 2012 at 23:34

Thanks. Yes, I was surprised how moved I was by the occasion.

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Besides offering training and retreats, Tariki Trust is involved in chaplaincy, environmental action and community support. No one in Tariki is salaried and all work including teaching is voluntary or offered at rates which are well below the professional norms.

OBITUARY- PERRY ISODORE IGOE

Friends, family and loved ones: greetings, and thank you for joining us for this celebration of the life of Perry Isadore Igoe.

Though we gather here today, bound by sorrow and loss, we share a precious gift. We were all privileged to live a life that has been touched by Perry. He possessed a number of extraordinary gifts, which he shared with us freely. None of these gifts, however, are more remarkable than his capacity for love in its purest, most sincere, and honest form. Love for his adored wife, his beloved daughters, his precious friends, and for nature that surrounds us all, especially the life breathed into us by the trees.

Perry was born August 1st 1963 and was very premature so spent the first six weeks of his life in an incubator where he captured the hearts of the nurses and midwives with his cuteness. The trademark infectious Perry smile is well known by all his friends and family so without a doubt, even as a baby he could melt hearts.

Growing up, he went to school in Braintree in Essex, where he lived with his mum Carol, his younger sister Tracey, and older brother Wayne.

Perry was severely dyslexic, so, as a young man, in a very lean job market, he looked for a practical career. He joined the RAF at 16 and served with them for 17 years in Biggin Hill, Brize Norton, Germany, and the Falkland islands. Perry was a peace loving soul and had no desire to ever take up arms, harm, or kill anyone. Since however there had been no wars for a long time, it felt like a fairly safe career for a fit young man. It suited Perry who loved to be part of a team.

When he was 23, Perry managed to search for and finally find his father, Isadore Griffin, who was Black American, which led to several visits to his father in the USA.  Sadly his father also died at an early age a few years later. But Perry has continued to keep regularly in touch with the American side of his family – he was always telling Liz that one day soon they would go to visit, what he jokingly called, - ‘the dark side’!

Perry then worked in logistics and stores for the RAF and was promoted to corporal but, as the Cold War ended, promotions in the RAF were increasingly hard to come by. So after 17 years Perry took voluntary redundancy, left the RAF and went to work for Motorola in Swindon. He bought a house with his then wife, Carrie, and lived in it with his two daughters Sian & Kylie and rather a lot of strange pets. 

Perry was a great believer in investing in property and at one point when he found his work hours cut down, he took on two other jobs and bought a house in Avebury, which he rented out for a while. He later moved to Avebury with his wife Antoinette and ran a B&B there. 

Avebury was a spiritual home for Perry – he loved the standing stones and he enjoyed the succession of eccentric, visiting tourists interested in the stone circles as well as the many crop circles that pop up in Wiltshire fields in the spring and summer months. Whilst Perry was there he was a member of a Wiccan coven and later a shamanistic group.

In 2007 Perry decided to train as a counsellor with the Buddhist Organisation, the Amida Trust – now re-named - the Tariki Trust. This was where he met Liz and they became good friends.  In 2009 they both qualified as counsellors. In his usual ‘speedy’ fashion Perry had completed the course in record time – under 2 years. He went on to work for an organisation which helped educate young people with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. Perry worked as a counsellor for several years before he finally fulfilled a life-long dream of buying a property ‘somewhere warm’.

In 2013 Perry moved again, lock stock and barrel, to the Serra De Estrella Mountains in Portugal where he quickly made a lot of friends among the ex-pats from the UK and Europe, all busy restoring old buildings and farming the land.

Perry and Liz met again accidentally in 2014 at the Buddhist House. They fell in love during a marathon 17.5 hour dinner and talked through the night and most of the following day. Since then Perry and Liz have been busy restoring their house in Portugal, affectionately named ‘The Ranch’ and have gone from having baths by candlelight in the goat shed, to a beautiful home with 3 bathrooms. Perry was never happier than when he was walking around the land working out watering systems and making sure the 150 trees he’d planted were growing well. Indicative of his altruistic personality and philosophy of sustainability, all the trees he planted at ‘The Ranch’ have been selected to provide for the next generations. A fan of tree nursing myself, I would often ask him about his trees and we would share videos and ideas for them. On a specific topic of his latest project, the Pecan trees, he mentioned how the earliest the small, 1-inch saplings would grow to bear fruit in 10 years, and it might be a good 20 before they reach maturity. “Perry,” I said, “that's ...a really long time.” To which he replied: “They aren't for me.”

And this is the type of person Perry was - always thinking of others first. Planning for the long term, working for a sustainable world, a world that works with nature, not against it. To paraphrase an ancient Greek proverb, “a wise man plants trees in whose shade he knows he will never sit.”

Perry had a great love of nature and the natural world, which he attributed to his Native American ancestors. His great love was trees, which he believed really spoke to him. So Perry returned to the Buddhist house to train in eco-therapy and shortly thereafter Perry and Liz started running eco-therapy and tree planting holidays in Portugal. Alongside his projects in Portugal, Perry joined several local eco-projects in Bristol.

On the 10th of July 2016, Perry and Liz married at Tortworth Court in Gloucestershire in a beautiful hand-fasting ceremony with over a 100 family and friends. Neither of them stopped smiling and laughing all day long, and Perry tore up the dance floor in what seemed like a union of John Travolta and Patrick Swayze. Since then they have spent six months of every year at the Ranch in Portugal and have welcomed many family and friends as visitors there.

Perry loved life – he just loved being here on this earth. Many people on this Earth believe in a higher power or greater purpose. Perry was content being himself, in this world, right now, enjoying the greatest and the smallest life has to offer. A true “Zen master”, as I like to describe him to my friends.

Perry was the most gentle and kindest of men – a true gentleman. Perry never had a bad word to say about anyone – not a criticism or judgement ever passed his lips. He didn’t swear, he didn’t argue, and he also didn’t drink alcohol, smoke, or even take tea or coffee. That is one reason why his death has been such a shock for all of us. Perry’s life was about love, acceptance, and working with others as part of a team, and he lived that out with every breath he took.

We have been lucky to know Perry in this life, we regret his passing on so soon, and so young, but his spirit and his legacy will remain among us – youthful, lively, fun, and full of love, and that oh-so-special smile.  We honour him.   

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