October 2022

What an amazing time our nation has just experienced with the death of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; the outpouring of grief we have seen expressed through those seemingly endless snaking lines of people queuing for hours and hours to pay their respects in Westminster Hall. Before that we were privileged to see so many people lining the roads and streets in Scotland as her coffin was transported first to the Palace of Holyrood , then to St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, and subsequently to Buckingham Palace and then to Westminster Hall in London.

To be able to watch history unfolding before our eyes as the heir to the throne, Charles, was proclaimed King Charles III in a never-before-seen ceremony and to have an almost constantly running commentary on what was happening over the course of several days will have been frustrating for some but pleasing to many. Seeing the sadness and grief of the Royal Family as they undertook walkabouts meeting people who had come to see them as they travelled to various parts of our nation, in the viewing of the floral tributes to their Mother and Grandmother, and in both vigils conducted by Her Late Majesty’s children and grandchildren, who could not be moved by compassion.

The late Queen’s funeral has been planned for many years, to be carried out with all the pomp and ceremony that our nation does so well. Dignitaries from all over the world will gather to pay their last respects to this remarkable woman we have been privileged to have serve us as our head of state, our Queen, for over 70 years. The streets of London will be thronged with people who just want to be there and there will be millions of us watching the State funeral on our televisions from our armchairs.

So why is a funeral so important, and they are so very important?

Firstly, it is for family and friends an opportunity to mourn our loss; to express that loss in words and actions, in the best way that we can; and to say goodbye to a loved one. For Christians it is also a time of “offering up our grief to the one who longs to bear it with us, and for us” – our God. For all of us a funeral is a significant part of the early stages of our journey through grief – and it is a journey, which takes differing lengths of time for each of us, but take time it certainly does.

My experience of caring for bereaved people having lost loved ones but been unable to attend a funeral shows me just how important funerals are. (As an aside, may I just say that if you are considering a direct cremation with no funeral service, please think again, as it is so hard for family and friends left behind. It may be the cheapest on offer, but it is the costliest in the long term.)

Secondly, it is the coming together with others to express our loss, and to comfort one another, that is also so vital for our wellbeing. At times like this we need to be held and comforted, and to be shown love, and God’s love is able to overflow into our life and the lives of others around us. I always try to encourage mourners at a funeral to go and share a cup of tea and a piece of cake, or to go and have a drink and remember all those special moments that had been shared with the person who has died; it blesses the family, but is good for all of us as we speak about the person who has been precious, important and a part of our life.

Thirdly, a funeral is an occasion when we reflect on just how much the person we have lost has shone in our life, our family or community, and may be respond with resolve to make a difference in the hearts and lives of our loved ones and the people around us. We have already seen and heard this expressed by King Charles III in his resolve to serve with what remains of his life, in the way that his Mother did for her whole life.

On the occasion of our late Queen’s funeral, gathering to mourn and acknowledge our loss, both personal and as a nation will be important, and an opportunity to share together and comfort one another in our grief. I, personally, thank God for the way in which she lived her life as an example of loving service to God and to our nation. A long life, well-lived. As a highly respected leader she was also a servant. For me, I see how she sought to follow the example of Jesus Christ. What a challenge!

After a bereavement we all need to be kind to ourselves and to those around us. I pray that King Charles III and the Royal family will have a chance to look after themselves and be kind to one another as they travel their very personal journey of grief in public view.