tearful remembrance

Although I did not cry tonight, I was tearful. Due to a friend’s desire to discuss the book, I have been listening to Leap of Faith: Memories of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor; tonight I finished listening to the book. Really, I should not say that I just listened to the book as many of her words brought back vivid memories and feelings from the years I spent in Jordan. As I listened to the Queen’s story, I imagined where I was when different events occurred and added my own thoughts and feelings to hers as she spoke of favorite places that I also loved. It has been a beautiful time of remembrance.

As I sit here writing, there is so much that could be said, so many memories that could be recounted, and I do not know which to share. Part of this questioning stems from knowing that many people do not have a context within which to place these stories—although set in modern times, it is little different than listening to tales of Arabian Nights, albeit less interesting. Yet these stories are interwoven into my past and are part of who I am. So today I write about why I was tearful this evening.

King Hussein, the third king of Jordan, died from cancer during my senior year of high school. During the fall of my senior year he was at Mayo Clinic receiving treatment. In mid January of 1999, he was declared to be free of cancer and returned home. Following his custom, he flew his own jet home. On the ground, the country was jubilant—their king was well and returning home. There was dense cloud cover that hung low in the sky that day and a light rain watering the ground. There were rumors that the king would drive the processional route from the airport to his home in a ‘Pope-mobile’ with a glass bubble over the sun roof to protect him from the cold, damp air. But, the king would not have that and stood out of an open sun roof the entire parade route waving to his people. Apparently Queen Noor braced his legs to enable him to stand the whole way. As my home was only several blocks from the route, I was able to remain in the warmth of my home until I knew the king had begun the drive. Then my family and I headed to the route and joined the throngs of people. I waved my greeting at the king along with everyone else.

It was about two weeks later that I returned to that spot along the parade route, only this time everyone was dressed in black and the air was filled with grief and sorrow as King Hussein had not only take a turn for the worse, but had died. The procession moved much slower through the streets this time as there was no need to rush the king home, but there was a need to let his people say their farewells. After his coffin passed my spot, I watched as streams of men ran after the coffin with tears streaming down their faces.

Following Islam, the funeral occurred within 24 hours of his death, and yet over 50 heads of state, including the four living, healthy US presidents, came to the funeral. As the funeral did not have a time for eulogies, the US presidents and Hillary Clinton gave their eulogies at a press conference, and I sat in the audience. Living in the Middle East as the child of a diplomat was at times interesting and frustrating as American policy was often, let’s say, lacking. That night, however, was a good night as I was honored to listen as my Presidents eulogized a man whom I had come to greatly respect, a man that was, in many ways, also my King Hussein as Jordan was my home. That night of sorrow was a beautiful one in which my worlds collided.

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