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London I hesitate to share my feelings because they are so painfully personal. In writing this I only hope that I may be allowed to say what I regret I was never able to do - and that is to thank Diana.

I was about as removed as one could be from the Princess. I grew up in a small town in Mississippi, the child of divorced parents at a time when divorce was extremely rare. I was unhappy and felt isolated until I was nine years old and Lady Diana Spencer became engaged to the Prince of Wales.

Here was a true fairy tale and one in which the beautiful Princess grew up like me. She must have known just how awful it was to have divorced parents. She instantly became my hero.

How comforted I was by the belief that a real Princess understood my humble life in Mississippi. It consoled me and gave me confidence. When my own family situation was precarious and intolerable, I had Diana, if only in my head and heart, to give me the love my parents were not capable of giving.

I had always followed the Princess, though as I grew older, it may have been more distant than as a child. My husband only knew of my admiration, due to the fact that I have wicker chest full of my childhood collection.

In recent years, for the first time in my life, because of Diana's admission of her own emotional problems, I had the courage to seek the treatment to overcome my depression. And beacuse of all of this, as illogical as it may sound, I had always thought I would get the chance to thank her.

Watching the news that August night and hearing of her death is one of my worst memories. I have never had such a reaction in my entire life. My husband was completely shocked by my grief.

I have thought about it every single day since. I get angry with myself for thinking about it so much and have tried to understand why. I have only recently come to the simple conclusion that Diana has always been there to give me hope.

From the time I was a lonely 9-year-old child to a married 26-year-old, she was there for me. And now, in the loss of Diana, I have lost my own patron of hope.

Freyja McCain Stoltz
New Orleans, Louisiana

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