In this period of national mourning for our dear Queen Elizabeth II, we arrive today at the eve of her state funeral.
Just ten days ago, on the 8th September, we all heard the sad news that she had died peacefully, surrounded by her family at Balmoral.
I’m sure that like me, many of you had seen news clips of her earlier that week, greeting the new Prime Minister, the 15th PM that the Queen had greeted throughout her 70-year-reign. Whilst she did look frail, her face beamed as she greeted Liz Truss, just as it had on so many occasions throughout her life.
On the morning of the 8th, news broadcasters reported that the Queen had been encouraged to rest and was under the close supervision of her doctors, but who among us expected her death to come so quickly? My feelings when I heard the news were similar to those that I’ve experienced when the health of an elderly or sick relative or friend begins to fail and I’m sure many of you have been through the same. “Is today the day?” we ask ourselves. The 8th September 2022 was one of those, “It is today” days.
Something I have enjoyed watching on television or reading about over the years was the Queen during various church services– commemorations, funerals, thanksgivings and Sunday services. She took her faith seriously. While she read the newsletters for the service, I have no doubt when it came to the prayers, that she knew them from memory and by heart. She paid attention to endless sermons, and I’m sure she considered them later in the day when Sunday lunch was over. Did she always like the music the choir and organ provided, plus hymns and anthems sung by the congregation? Who knows? She was very good at keeping a straight face that didn’t disclose her feelings. Still, she sang the hymns, probably not even needing the lyrics printed in front of her.
Her Majesty was never shy about mentioning her faith, especially during religious holidays like Christmas and Easter and at times when something spiritually uplifting needed to be said. As Defender of the Faith and head of the Anglican communion throughout the world, she made sure her people saw her attending church regularly.
But the Queen did more than just talk about her faith, she lived it. She praised those who did good deeds for others, recognising their efforts while humbly keeping her own efforts private. She undoubtedly trusted God to guide and help her, probably never more than at the death of her beloved husband of seventy-three years.
The Queen’s relationship with Our Lord taught her how important it was to love people, even those who had hurt her or her people. Yes, rules were rules, and sometimes she had to be what seemed quite harsh, but she didn’t do it capriciously. I remember seeing her face in newsreels when she visited the site of the Aberfan disaster in Wales where 144 people were killed, most of them children. She hadn’t wanted to go, but ultimately, she did. I imagine it must have been hard for her to contemplate those deaths, perhaps thinking of how she would feel had one or more of her own been in a similar situation.
I’ve also seen film reels of her enjoying visiting people around the world, watching their singing and dancing, seeing their world, and learning things that might become important years later than the actual date of those visits. Of course, she delighted in dancing herself and I think you’ll probably have seen the films of her at the Ghillies’ Ball.
Her relationship with Jesus also taught the Queen what it meant to be human. It is often difficult to keep a straight face when something happens, whether it is humorous, tragic or incomprehensible. Still, Jesus continued with his work, regardless of circumstance, and so, following his example, did she. I think she understood duty in the same way Jesus did. God had sent Jesus with a mission. Elizabeth had been consecrated to a job that had come through her father, himself consecrated to the same position. Elizabeth said in a message after the 9/11 attacks, “Grief is the price we pay for love.” Jesus knew the same thing, just two thousand or so years earlier.
Many of us will miss her but, seeing her frailty just a few days before her passing, I am sure many of have felt some consolation by the circumstance that she had a peaceful death. It feels a bit like losing a mother or grandmother but there are many years of memories that pictures, books and newsreels will continue to bring up, and I’m sure we are all glad of that.
I hope God met her at the gates of heaven personally. As humble as she was in most cases, I can imagine her face at seeing God waiting to welcome her to her new mansion, her new heavenly home. And I can imagine that Philip probably had the barbecue already going as well.
May Elizabeth and Philip both now rest in peace and rise in glory together. They’ve left a big void in the heart of our nation.