When someone we know and love dies a wave of feelings, emotions and reactions that are both seen in our tears and felt in our hearts can overwhelm us. It helps when visitors call, quiet chats and cups of tea ease our sadness. We find ourselves telling and retelling the story of a life well lived, of how the death itself happened, sharing the funeral arrangements, inviting people to come to the church and join us afterwards. Photographs and flowers help to set the ritual in life, coffins and sombre undertakers remind us of the final destination of this earthly body. Preachers and presiders invite us to have faith in God’s promise so that we can believe that the creator, the giver of all life and gifts, is waiting for the return of the soul of our beloved, which can now rest in eternal peace in paradise.
Every death is different, but there are definitely similarities in the way we mourn the dead, bring them for burial and mark that place as being a reminder of the span of their lives.
This week we have all watched the Royal Family, a nation and the wider world say goodbye to a beloved mother, a country’s queen, a world leader who dedicated her life in service to her people as a promise before Almighty God. It has made for very appealing television, the pomp and ceremony of the church and state, the sombre faces of the close relatives and friends, the funny stories and endless anecdotes, the pictures of her travels, which even include our Garden of Remembrance and the English Market, all build a picture of the woman herself and the long life she lived. She touched many people and they loved her.
On Monday, she will be laid to rest after a church service in the tomb prepared for her since the beginning of her reign. This will become a place of pilgrimage for years to come, the story of her life will be carried forward in the memories of those who knew and loved her. As Queen, she lived out her faith in public, was dedicated to her church, prayed with the community in little churches close to her castles week by week. There is much to admire and imitate in and from her witness to Christ and the Gospel. May she rest in peace.