Few things in life are constants; there in the background, always, your entire life, creating a sense of continuity.
Even if you don’t really pay attention, figures in public life give a sense of time and place. As established norms and realities fracture and change and become new and different, or are burned in war and rebuilt, a durable figure’s presence acts as a reassurance – a lodestone against which change can be measured and a reassurance that the future need not be uncertain as you fear.
And then one day they’re gone and it’s only then you see the gap in their place.
Without the constants, the changes seem so much bigger and the challenges all the greater. It’s a moment of mental dislocation, a moment when certainties become uncertain.
From those early photos of an uncertain but hopeful mechanic fixing up lorries to carry troops and weapons to punch Hitler in the face, to sharing a cuppa with Paddington, the Queen was there, her face on banknotes with a slightly quizzical smile as if surprised to actually be there.
And it was there for your entire life. It’s easy to lose sight of how valuable that stability is, not just to individuals but to a sense of identity.
Of course, people will make jokes. That’s what they do when they’re saddened and afraid. If they upset you, forgive them and move on.