After the bow and the handshake but not before the jitters of being in Kensington Palace alone with Princess Diana subsided, the extraordinarily beautiful and charming Princess asks me what I want to drink and to sit with her before we were to retire to the dining room for lunch.
It's June of 1996, just over a year before her life would come to a sudden end in Paris.
The question I have always wanted to ask bubbles up inside of me and I blurt out . . .
"I have to ask, as perhaps the most famous woman in the world, and with all your causes, do you have a sense of a specific purpose or mission for your life?"
She looks at me and, without hesitation calmly says, "Yes. I'm not coming back!"
I'm completely taken aback.
Was The Princess of Wales - in the first moments of our visit - talking about Reincarnation? Having studied Eastern Philosophy in India and elsewhere I was reminded of the belief that all people/souls incarnate many, many times until they evolve to a certain level (become "an old soul") and learn and contribute all that they planned to learn and contribute before moving on to other places and dimensions.
I wonder if I should let it go. But I can't.
"Excuse me, but are we talking about Reincarnation? Do you believe in Reincarnation?
"Yes!", she again quickly responds. "This is going to be my last time on Earth. I'm going to do all of what I need to do this time!"
A year and a few months later as I walk out of her funeral at Westminster Abbey and see London Bobbies holding flowers, normally restrained British people of all ages in tears and hugging each other and people from all over the world in deep mourning, having had their hearts broken open by this young former school teacher, I remember our conversation, look up at the sky, and say, simply, "Yes, dear Princess. Your life certainly did make a huge difference on this little planet."
Ever since the meeting in Kensington Palace I have struggled about whether to share this belief of hers with the world.
I do so now, on the 20th anniversary of her passing, for a number of reasons:
First of all I think it may be comforting for many of us who still mourn to imagine that Princess Diana herself - whether one agrees with the philosophy or not - did not likely, on a spiritual level, believe that the tragic accident in Paris on August 31, 1997 was the end of her beautiful soul’s journey.
Secondly, her comments perhaps give another meaning to the good works she did in her life, revealing a deep need to contribute something unique and meaningful. I am aware that there were, and likely still are, those who doubt her intentions but am one who believes that Princess Diana was a genuine and spiritual human being who profoundly cared about others with her enormous and sensitive heart. In person it was easy to sense something extremely special about this woman. Her eyes were like laser beams, conveying an energy that I have rarely encountered . . . an energy that, even muted by the two dimensional covers of magazines, would jump out and mesmerize.
And lastly, maybe it is about time . . . and yet another contribution from this extraordinary being . . . to tee up an even larger conversation about what life is, what death is and if in fact our soul comes here for a purpose and then moves on to other places or even dimensions in some kind of eternal dance. This is the teaching of Dr. Deepak Chopra, someone she greatly admired, and Eastern thought but is also the teaching of most religions who, in their own way, also believe in some sort of life after death. Might we take some courage and inspiration in knowing that Princess Diana personally believed so, and with some conviction.
And may we honor her and her amazing life, albeit one that was too short by our standards, by finding our own mission and purpose and, like the remarkable Diana, Princess of Wales, make a memorable impact on our fellow humans and the planet!
Richard Greene is a public speaking and communication coach and strategist who analyzed Princess Diana's speaking for Extra! television and was one of many to consult with her to help her overcome her fear of public speaking and become an even stronger speaker. Richard was also one of a small number of Americans to be invited to her funeral in 1997. RHGreene@aol.com