Editor’s note: Derrick Hurd of Santa Barbara submitted this letter to the News-Press after the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
I was the same age as her son when the queen of England came to re-dedicate the rebuilt Old Globe Theatre in San Diego (which had been destroyed by arson) in 1981. In the months before the visit, we were schooled in complicated protocols, and the orchestration was flawless.
Our chairman of the board, Lowell Davies, had just had a stroke and could not stand up for his meeting with her, so he was allowed to sit in the receiving line. But, under the protocol, she could not acknowledge him directly because he would be seated in her presence. Instead his wife would be introduced to the Queen as he watched.
It was the high point of a glorious life of service to San Diego, and as a student and employee and friend, I thought it cold, especially when I was told he had asked for me to tend him through the experience. He would have fallen out of the chair if I had let him go.
So it was arranged and the day came, and I got him into his chair and combed his hair. There were sirens and the motorcycles; you could hear them a mile away. It was a magnificent motorcade.
The queen came down the red carpet. and the crowd went wild, thrilled at the glamorous spectacle. There SHE was. History walking toward me in a suit covered in a peanut-print. She was absolutely radiant.
Our clownish mayor put his arm over her shoulder in a photo op that embarrassed everyone but her. And then she was right in front me. What happened next remains the most touching gesture of pure grace I have ever witnessed.
She leaned over and looked at Lowell Davies, who was seated, directly in the face and spoke to him. I was focused on him intensely because he was shaking. She reached down and took his hand lovingly as all the English officials gasped. It was only seconds, but her smile conveyed genuine compassion.
Lowell’s tears literally broke my heart. As he was whisked away when it all was over, he locked eyes with me, even as the car door closed and his face was behind glass. I didn’t look away until the car was long gone, unwilling to surrender another second to the thief of time.
A famous photo of the moment that the queen bowed to recognize Lowell was hung in The San Diego Trust and Savings Bank for years. His widow made a copy for me.
“What did she say to him?” she asked me at Lowell’s funeral.
“She spoke for us all,” I told her.
“She said: ‘Well done.’”
Derrick Harrison Hurd