Royal Silence

Call me crazy and you just might be right.

I had met her once, in Rome, under the auspices of the Scots College, many years ago. And Prince Philip with her that day, as they often were, for a longer period than many entire lifetimes. By whatever instinct, I rose at 5 this morning and watched the little laptop screen beam images from London and Windsor until 12 noon here in Worcester.

I am told tonight that some 4 billion other human beings watched the same images today. If I am crazy, I am not alone.

There were many moving moments. The words of the prayers, the touch of the singing voices, the visual of the flowers on her coffin including a myrtle sprig from the same plant that provided a sprig in the bouquet she carried as a young bride. The sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which beautifully did justice in a few minutes both to this human life and to the soaring depth of the Christian faith well-lived.

But for me, perhaps the most profound moment was more than a moment. It was the two minutes of silence at the conclusion of the funeral at Westminster Abbey. Silence is something to flee from in this world. Or so the world seems to shout. When Elizabeth was a young woman during World War II, the blitz over London made silence both scarce and devoutly to be valued and received with gratitude.

But we live in and surround ourselves with noise, with stimulus, with anything to mask the silence. Today, at the end of 96 years of life, at the end of 70 years of service, there were two minutes of silence. Suddenly, the images from thousands of miles away became the work of camera-as-lover, gently sharing the expressions on stilled faces of the famous and the unknown, the powerful and the powerless (as the world defines them). The entire scene became a portrait, a still picture, an irreducible memory of this woman, this nation, this period of time, this world, this humanity, this God not hovering above but dwelling-with, resident in every face, in every eye, in the curve of every mouth, in the memories of each heart.

It was silence. And it was full-beyond-words, and colorful-beyond-the-telling. After all the years, all the moving words, all the music, all the challenges accepted and all the details-attended, it was the silence that carried her on the wings of angels to a palace that has, and needs, no name.

Elizabeth II
The Final Portrait
Ranald Mackechnie/Courtesy of Buckingham Palace

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