What if on the 25the On the anniversary of their respective deaths, which took place within a week of each other in 1997, Lady Di and Mother Teresa decided to record an episode of the show The other lunch at the next table, what would they talk about? I allowed myself to imagine their conversation.
Posted at 6:00 am
— Hi Diana, thank you for agreeing to meet me on a cloud just above Skopje, my native city. It’s not as fancy as Clarence House or Dodi al-Fayed’s villa in Saint-Tropez.
Diana laughs softly.
“The pleasure is all mine, dear Mother Teresa. You know that your path has greatly enlightened mine. Meeting you in Kolkata when I was in the midst of marital difficulties allowed me to ease my pain. After visiting your plants in Calcutta and the Bronx, I redoubled my efforts to support causes close to my heart.
“We were unlikely allies, both of us, Diana. As I welcomed leprosy and AIDS patients into my hospices, you worked to fight prejudice by holding your hand. Few celebrities had that courage back then. I think it got you a “ticket to heaven”.
“Um, it’s funny you mention tickets to heaven, Mother Teresa. Since your death, the actions of your missionaries in some of your facilities, which are real places of death, have been criticized. Volunteers who worked there reported that you and members of your congregation baptized the dying—mostly without their knowledge—after asking them if they just wanted a ticket to heaven.
— I was criticized a lot after my death. For this practice, but also because I accepted donations from dubious sources. In addition, we denounced the opaque management of the money I was given for the poor. I’ve also been criticized for my ultra-conservative views on abortion and divorce. But despite these criticisms, the church I started in 1950, the Missionaries of Charity, is doing well today. There are more than 5,000 nuns in their ranks, nearly 1,200 more than when I died in 1997. My daughters work with the “poorest of the poor” in hundreds of institutions around the world. It is my former secretary, Sister Joseph Michael, born in Kerala, India, who has just taken the reins of all this. I’m very glad about that. It will certainly help the community face Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, which is suspicious like the plague of Christian missionaries in his country.
“You know, Mother Teresa, I’m not going to throw the first stone at you. I too have often been criticized. Firstly, because I dared to speak publicly about my private life and Charles’ betrayal, breaking a golden rule of the royal family, but also because of my love-hate relationship with the media. They say I used them one day and ran away from them the next. But when I think about it, that’s not what I remember from my time on earth. Above all, I see my two boys, William and Harry, each going their own way. Harry, in turn, defies his grandmother and the rules of the monarchy. Go Harry! And I see that the causes that were close to our hearts, you and me, continue to resonate.
“You’re right Diana. The AIDS epidemic, which bothered us so much during our lifetime, no longer has the same face. In the year we disappeared, 2.3 million people died from this disease worldwide. Today there are still as many HIV carriers in the world, but the disease kills 75% fewer people. Ah! Science has worked wonders there.
– Well said. And it is true that since we left, poverty has steadily decreased. In 1997 nearly two billion people on the planet lived in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 a day. It was almost 35% of the world’s population and now, 25 years later, it’s 9% of the earth’s inhabitants who are in this situation. It’s still amazing, isn’t it?
— Yes, especially since the progress of India, the country where I have spent most of my life, explains this boom. From India and neighboring China. That means if I were still on Earth I would still have a lot of work left to do. After all, one in two of God’s children lives on less than $5 a day. And the inequalities have only widened.
— It’s true, it’s quite heartbreaking, but let’s say I have to be careful when I talk about inequality. After all, I was born from the thigh of Jupiter and lived on the Olympus of the privileged unlike you who were born into a wealthy family in the Ottoman Empire but chose to live the simplest thing in the world.
— I think some would accuse me of my lack of environmental awareness today. Let’s say I’ve flown a lot of planes in my life.
An angel passes by.
“Tell me Diana, were you surprised by the great outpouring of sympathy that swept over you after your death?
– Surprise ? Stunned would be the correct word. After being unloved in my marriage and by my in-laws, I became the darling of billions in death. They made me an icon, a kind of lay saint. So much so that my death overshadowed yours.
– Oh! Diana, I’m not complaining. I was beatified and canonized by the Catholic Church faster than any other saint in history. It also woke my most staunch critics.
– Yes, you and I are well placed to see that a halo is as difficult to wear as a crown!