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OPINION: Many mourning devastating loss of Her Majesty

Whether you're a fan of the Royal family or not, reporter Shawn Gibson writes Queen Elizabeth II's death is also sad because she was a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother
Her Majesty greets employees on her walk from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center mission control to a reception in the center’s main auditorium in Greenbelt, Md., in 2007.

At the age of 96, it's not a shock that Her Majesty’s death has happened. But like any elder relative passing, it doesn’t make it any easier, either. And to many, including myself, that's what this is.

I'm devastated and gutted by today's news. It's the passing of a known and familiar loved one.

There will be those who don’t understand why someone in Canada, who has never met Queen Elizabeth II, would care so much about her death. There are those who didn’t grow up learning about the Royal family like I had.

My family roots are predominantly Northern Irish and English. My Nanny and Papa (my mother’s mom and dad) used to love hearing news about the Royal family and particularly Her Majesty. There were the keepsake plates and cups around the house, most of which I inherited when they passed on, and news clippings in a drawer full of important memories. 

My Nanny’s house was immaculate, just spotless. If you asked her why cleaning day was every Thursday, she would jokingly use a popular British saying, “You never know when the Queen might stop by.”

My wife and kids all know that Christmas morning means opening presents, eating a big breakfast, getting the turkey cooking, and everyone being quiet while Her Majesty gives her televised annual Christmas message.

There was a time when I would not accept anything but full respect for Her Majesty. 

If someone would speak ill of her or the monarchy, an argument or debate would commence and I felt it was my place to remind them why they need to show the Royal family some respect.

As years have passed, I have opened my mind and I realize, obviously, not everyone will feel the same and for reasons I didn’t grow up with.

As a Canadian who has proudly waved the nation's flag since early high school, there's a conflict inside of me about how loudly I proclaim my love for the monarchy. For example, there are many Indigenous people who would not feel the same grief at the news and that is understandable. 

Over the years, my social-media pages were flooded constantly with love for the Royal family. When the final resting places of residential school children came to light, I realized that I could have love for Queen Elizabeth with a little less pomp and circumstance as I learn to be an ally to those affected deeply by monarchical rule.

Also, I have an uncle who came from the Republic of Ireland and, because of that, he does not share in my adoration of the Queen and what she represents in my eyes. It's not something I can possibly understand and it's wrong for me to think my opinion means more than someone else's.

As I constantly refreshed my Twitter for the latest health update, I would see those who mocked and joked online about this sad day. They don’t matter and aren’t worth debating with.

So why is today sad for me and scores of other Canadians? We’ve lost a longtime family member, not unlike a grandmother or mother figure. 

Her Majesty led an amazing life, full of giving to the people she was meant to serve.

When she was 19, she was given permission to join the military effort during the Second World War, something she pushed to do to help in some way.

Queen Elizabeth II joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), and trained for several weeks as an auto mechanic. It wasn't a combat role, of course, but more than 300 ATS members were killed during the war, so it came with some risk.

Queen Elizabeth II served for 70 years, becoming Queen when she was only 25 years old, although crowned officially at age 27.

Stripping away the politics and logistics of the monarchy, there's also a very simple reason why today's news is sad. She was a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. There is a family grieving the loss of not just an amazing world figure, but of the head of their family.

There are those who won’t grieve this day and those who will. I know I will.

There are those who can’t imagine shedding tears for a lady they haven’t met. I know I have. 

I think of how Queen Elizabeth II has been in that role my whole life and it's all I've known. It is a warm, familiar tradition that is now gone. And that is sad.

Send her victorious, long she reigned over us. God save the Queen.

Shawn Gibson is a staff reporter at BarrieToday and a dedicated supporter of the Royal family.