I’ve been working on a project for a friend, typing umpteen training program pages for an organization she belongs to. It’s interesting for the most part, although a few things make me itch. Still, I can edit a few bits, so I guess that’s like the calamine lotion on the itch.
I was typing “In Flanders Field,” a poem written following WWI and commemorating a significant battle in which over a million soldiers went missing, were injured, or died. Scarlet poppy seeds pushed through the earth that had been disturbed by the combat, and the red flowers came to symbolize the blood of those who struggled there. I had just started typing the poem’s first few lines when my best friend texted me that the Queen had died at Balmoral, in Scotland. I had seen a news clip of her greeting the new Prime Minister, the 15th PM the Queen greeted throughout her 70-year-reign. She looked frail, yet her face beamed as she greeted the PM, just as she had on so many occasions throughout her life.
This morning, the news reported that the Queen had been encouraged to rest and was under a doctor’s supervision, but who expected her death to come so quickly? My feeling when I heard that news was similar to the first thought I’ve had every morning for years as my husband aged and grew frailer. “Is today the day?” Today was one of those, “It is today” days.
One thing I have enjoyed watching over the years was the Queen during various church services– commemorations, funerals, thanksgivings, and Sunday services. She took her faith seriously. While she read from the bulletins for the service, I have no doubt when it came to the prayers, 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 about it. Still, she sang the hymns, probably not needing the lyrics printed in front of her.
She was never shy about mentioning her faith, especially during the holidays and at times when something spiritually uplifting needed to be said. As Defender of the Faith and Head of the Church of England, she made sure her people saw her attending church regularly. But more than just talking about her faith, she lived it. She praised those who did good deeds for others, recognizing their efforts while humbly keeping her own 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.
I feel as though Jesus taught her how important it was to love people, even those who hurt her or her people. Yes, rules were rules, and sometimes she had to be what seemed to be harsh, but she didn’t do it capriciously. I remember seeing her face in newsreels when she visited the site of the Welsh slag-pile disaster that killed 144 people, 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 reels of her enjoying visiting people around the world, watching their singing and dancing, seeing their world, and learning things that might be important years from the date of those visits. She delighted in dancing herself, such as at the Ghillies’ Ball in Scotland.
I also feel as though Jesus 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 on with his work, regardless of circumstance, and so 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 2000 or so years earlier.
I will miss her, but seeing her frailty just a few days ago, I am glad for her peaceful death. It feels a bit like losing a mother again. Still, there are many years of memories that pictures, books, and newsreels will continue to bring up, and I’m glad of that.
I hope God met her at the gates 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. Philip probably had the barbecue going as well.
May Elizabeth and Philip both now rest in peace and rise in glory together. They’ve left a big void here on earth.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.