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  • Daniel G Opperwall

Farewell our queen

(Queen Elizabeth II, image courtesy of Pixabay)

The Queen is dead, God save the King!

Queen Elizabeth II, the first and only monarch I and most Canadians have ever known, died a few days ago in Scotland. These have been days of genuine sadness for millions of people around the world. Some of us have found ourselves surprised at the degree of emotion we have experienced in the face of our collective loss. However you may feel about the monarchy and all that Her Majesty represented, I think nearly all of us had a soft spot for the woman whose dignity was unshakeable and whose maternal wisdom followed her like a perfume. The queen, at least in her public persona, was someone very easy to love, and impossible not to at least respect. This loss cuts us deep--but why, exactly?

There are many reasons, I am sure, but the one I have been reflecting on the most in the last few days is that Her Majesty stood as one of the few exemplars of virtue and mature adulthood left in a society that has largely abandoned itself to childishness in almost every corner. Already at the age of 25, when she ascended to the throne, it was clear that Elizabeth knew the profound significance of her role within both the commonwealth and the world, and that she was prepared to step out into public life (where her every move and word would soon be scrutinized) and accept the place given to her by God and the constitutional system. In the seventy years since doing so, Her Majesty unwaveringly put her people first, seeking no credit for her subtle but deeply important role in British and world politics, responding with sincere warmth as various nations across the world ousted her as their monarch, bringing a smile and a deep sense of care to those she visited all over her realms, speaking to us every Christmas and occasionaly in between with that astonishing inner strength that reminded us of how much good there still is in the world, and how all is never lost if we remember what connects us together. The Queen was a woman who knew that no matter how powerful the storms of life and society become, what unites us is always deeper and stronger than what divides--there are always virtues toward which every man, woman and child on the planet can strive together. These were the virtues she herself embodied, never perfectly, but never wavering.

That, I think, is why she will be so deeply missed, why her loss feels so real and truly saddens so many of us. Amid chaos, it is essential for us as humans to know that somewhere there is a person of maturity and wisdom to whom we can look for guidance and advice. The childish bickering and lifestyle to which we have so deeply descended in recent years is toxic to us all--we know this quite well. But how do we escape it? Where are the adults to whom we can turn to remind us of how to exercise patience and dignity so as to extricate ourselves from the mess we have created? Less than a century ago, many if not most world leaders understood the deep symbolic and psychological importance of their role. However much or little real political power they might have, to be king, queen, president, prime minister, governor, or anything else demanded that one seek to serve as a point of unity for the people, rising above the petty and the puerile. Today it seems as though Her Majesty was perhaps the only leader left who knew how to play such a role, or even that it is important in the first place.

Ours is a culture that encourages us to remain psychological children forever, pursuing whatever impulses cross into our minds, ganging up on those with whom we disagree, bullying and tantruming our way through life in society, and above all consuming whatever is on sale to be consumed. My own generation complains of the problems of "adulting" as though it is a theatre act that we have to put on from time to time before we can get back to our real selves--apparently still children as we reach 40. Dignity and virtue are openly attacked as repressive and retrograde in the shrill modern marketplace of ideas. The deep values that have given us the most just and prosperous society in the history of the world are slandered as evil and outdated by social and political opportunists on all sides of the spectrum. So far most of this childishness remains confined primarily to the internet, and the large majority of us go about our lives keeping society functioning as we always have. But there is forever a threat of these childish and vicious things spilling out into the real world; and they sometimes do, as we have seen on occasion in the last few years.

When we are faced with the terrorists, and leftist social justice warriors, and right-wing Trump supporters, and celebrity influencers, and pseudo-intellectual health gurus, and shrieking Twitter mobsters, all of whom wish to drag the world into the vortex of their immature passions--when we are faced with all these, to whom do we turn to remind us of what virtue and maturity really look like so that we can survive the assault of the madness? For seventy years we could look to Queen Elizabeth and immediately breathe a little more freely. She was mother and grandmother and role model for all of us who seek to actually grow up instead of wallowing in our teenage foolishness forever. Without her presence in the world, it will be all that much more difficult to orient ourselves in the chaos.

I hope and pray that other leaders, including King Charles himself, will help fill the gap left by Her Majesty. We will see how it all unfolds. For the moment, however, it is well worth taking the time to remember a woman who helped remind us what virtue and maturity can and should look like in the world of public life. Let our striving toward these things together be the legacy of a truly remarkable sovereign and servant of Christ. Memory eternal, Elizabeth our Queen. We will miss you.

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