Author of Our Faithful Queen Catherine Butcher explains that the Queen was not afraid of dying but instead had hope in the resurrection of Jesus.
When the Queen last attended the General Synod of the Church of England in November 2015, Synod members sang the National Anthem before she left. The words “…long live our noble Queen…” rang out. The Archbishop of Canterbury recalled that the Queen quipped to him, “I think I’ve lived long enough, don’t you?” To agree, he said, would have been treason! But the remark speaks volumes about a Queen who was comfortable with her own mortality.
For Queen Elizabeth, death was not the end. She died in the Christian’s sure and certain hope of resurrection – following Jesus Christ, her King. For those who fear death, her dying has shown us what a “normal death” looks like. According to palliative care doctor Kathryn Mannix, author of With the End in Mind: “She has demonstrated the phases of ordinary dying to us all. How dying is mainly living, after all. And how, in the end, we can all plan ahead, address the unfinished business in our lives, and die with symptoms well-managed, even in our own bed if circumstances permit.”
Alongside this physician’s perspective, there have been many touching, sentimental reflections on the Queen’s death: pictures of Her Majesty taking Paddington’s hand and walking into the distance; talk of being reunited with the Duke of Edinburgh; sentiments that suggest that the majority of people want to believe in an afterlife, but aren’t very sure about what happens when we die.
“She has demonstrated the phases of ordinary dying to us all. How dying is mainly living, after all.”
For Christians, there are answers to be found in the words of Jesus and in the images throughout the Bible. The words of Jesus himself, recorded in John’s Gospel were read at the Thanksgiving Service for the Queen in Edinburgh’s St Giles Cathedral: “Do not let your hearts be troubled…I go and prepare a place for you… where I am, there you may be also.” Jesus promised his followers they would meet again. As a result, he gives us the assurance that death is not the end. This was also emphasised in another Bible reading from the Thanksgiving Service: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life … will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The words of the Queen’s favourite Psalm were also sung at her funeral and also at the Service of Prayer and Reflection in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, again asserting that “in God’s house for evermore, my dwelling-place shall be” (Psalm 23). As the Queen said in 2000: “[Christ’s] death might have been the end of the story, but then came the resurrection and with it the foundation of the Christian faith.”
The Queen was a faithful follower of Jesus. In 2002 she said: “I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad…I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.” Her faith was seen in action as well as words. So many stories are now emerging of her private acts of service, compassion and care for others. She found inspiration to serve from Jesus of Nazareth who, she said: “Managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life.” She sought to do the same. The lesson she learned from him: “That genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than in being served.”
She found inspiration to serve from Jesus of Nazareth who, she said: “Managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life.”
Until her dying day the Queen kept the promise she made on her 21st birthday “that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.” It was a promise she repeated when she wrote to her people in February 2022 at the start of her Platinum Jubilee year and said: “I look forward to continuing to serve you with all my heart,” and signed the letter “your servant, Elizabeth.” In the same statement she added: “And when, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support that you have given me.”
She was preparing us for a future without her. Back in 1953, in the month before her coronation, her personal devotions invited her to consider these words: ”The whole of life is a journey to God…” Her journey is now complete. Thank you, good and faithful servant.