With the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of Canada, millions are reflecting on her life, and the values she held dear. I grew up with a grandmother who has deep respect for the Queen and over a cup of tea (made with a side of English marmalade toast, of course), she would tell me stories of Queen Elizabeth’s life. We would stop and listen to her annual Christmas message, and through it all I came to see a woman of deep faith and commitment to her office and the people she met.
The Queen often addressed her hope that we all would become good neighbours, it was a cornerstone of how she imagined a thriving world. “Everyone is our neighbour, no matter what race, creed or colour,” she said. Certainly she lived out what she hoped to see in others. During her reign she met millions of people and met each one with respect. According to one statistic, 31% of Brits have met or seen the Queen up close. She has met with 13 American Presidents and had 12 Canadian Prime Ministers. She has visited 106 countries and met countless well-wishers of every kind.
The Queen has often referred to the ways that loving our neighbours expresses the very best of human freedom and civility. She said, “If we resolve to be considerate and to help our neighbours; to make friends with people of different races and religions; and, as our Lord said, to look to our own faults before we criticise others, we will be keeping faith with those who landed in Normandy and fought so doggedly for their belief in freedom, peace and human decency.”
While it is certainly true that palace life did not allow for the kind of neighbourhood interactions we might have in Chestermere at the post-office box or grocery store, the Queen’s commitment to compassion and attentiveness for others is a model for us all. She spoke with grace, encouragement, complimenting many with thoughtful attentiveness. Even when I wrote her a letter 12 years ago, her lady-in-waiting, the Hon. Mary Morrison, wrote be back from Balmoral Castle, where the Queen was spending the season. Whether it was her patronage to over 600 charities, or her commitment to respond to hundreds of letters each week, the Queen found ways to demonstrate how love-for-neighbour is at the heart of her reign and the society she intends for us all.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, summed it up well, “In The Late Queen’s life, we saw what it means to receive the gift of life we have been given by God and – through patient, humble, selfless service – share it as a gift to others. Her Late Majesty found great joy and fulfilment in the service of her people and her God, “whose service is perfect freedom.” For giving her whole life to us, and allowing her life of service to be an instrument of God’s peace among us, we owe her a debt of gratitude beyond measure.”
With the passing of the Queen we have a moment to take stock once again. Who will we be as a country and a people? Will we resolve, as the Queen says, to help our neighbours and make friends with people of different races and religions? Will we fight for freedom, peace and human decency by loving our neighbours? Perhaps the greatest way we can remember and celebrate Her Majesty is to stand for these highest virtues again, standing firm in the headwinds of disinterest or hatred with compassion and grace for those around us. It has been a gift to have a monarch who holds, and lives out, these values. It is a gift to our community when we learn to live likewise.
May Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II rest in peace and rise in glory.