Saying goodbye to a Queen and an era

Yesterday started like any other day. It was an ordinary rainy London day with brief moments of sunshine.

I opened my laptop and started to work at our kitchen table. My son went to school.

The news came up on my social media feed first. Then my colleague told the team the Queen was gravely ill. I turned on the TV and saw that the BBC had stopped its usual programs and was now continuously covering this story.

Until this moment, I had never known a world without her.

By the early evening, the news broke – Queen Elizabeth II had died.

I felt a sudden sense of loss I was not expecting. It was the strangest feeling. Like the world had suddenly shifted and changed while I was not paying attention.

My husband tells me it is because she was my Queen too. I am Australian. But my heritage is Korean. And I had always felt she was never mine because my ethnic background was different.

But love it or hate it, Her Majesty was the Queen of Australia. That was fact. And perhaps she had a more lasting impact on me than I thought, for until this moment, I had never known a world without her.

As people in the United Kingdom mourn today, I am left thinking why I suddenly came to admire the Queen so much.

World leaders have paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, honouring her deep sense of duty as well as her kindness and sense of humour. But for me, at the heart of it all was her faith in Jesus Christ.

“Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed,” she once explained.

“God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.”

Her Majesty’s desire to do small things with care because of Jesus’ example was moving.

In her 2002 Christmas address, the Queen said: “I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God. Like others of you who draw inspiration from your own faith, I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.”

Her Majesty’s desire to do small things with care because of Jesus’ example was moving.

“Billions of people now follow Christ’s teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives,” she said in 2016.

“I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.”

The Queen has served on hundreds of charities, opened countless buildings, visited the sick and spoken to all kinds of people. Not to mention hosting grand state occasions with international implications. But sometimes, the small things can reveal a person’s character.

There is a well-known story of a builder who worked at Buckingham Palace. He was dismantling a desk when he heard a lady’s voice ask if he would like a cup of tea.

Without looking up from his work, he said, “Yeah. In a mug. Two sugars. Builders’ tea. I don’t want any of that nonsense I had last time I was here, all that fine china and all that saucer stuff.”

The lady returned and told the builder it was on the table. When he looked up, the Queen was quietly leaving the room.

A life lived well in the service of others with faith in Jesus as the bedrock of all she did. There was something incredibly encouraging and inspiring about that.

We Christians are to emulate the God we follow. In Hebrews 12, we are called to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. We are to run the race marked out before us with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus.

The race is one fraught with difficulties and suffering but also great joy as we come to understand just how loved we are and share that love with others. And to me, Queen Elizabeth II seems like someone who finished her race well.

Most of all, it seemed Her Majesty was someone who, inspired by Christ, loved her neighbours. No matter what race, creed or colour.

“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life,” she said one Christmas.

“A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none.”

Maybe she was my Queen after all.

After dinner last night, my husband and I made our way to Buckingham Palace. It was still raining when we left. The sun had set long ago.

As we exited St James Park station for Buckingham Palace, I saw a young Asian man. He was wearing a white shirt and baggy black trousers and asked directions of the policeman standing at the gates. In his hand was a bunch of white roses.

It felt like the world was watching the ending of an era.

People were slowly streaming down The Mall to the Palace. Parked on the side were coaches from various TV stations around the world. The camera lights were on in the media tents. We passed a young journalist reporting in Vietnamese. I could hear French, Spanish, and Japanese in the crowd. And it felt like the world was watching the ending of an era.

For a large crowd, it was relatively quiet. The mood seemed sombre as people came to mark the passing of the nation’s longest-reigning monarch.

Today there were gun salutes in Hyde Park and the Tower of London. Bells rang out from Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral and Windsor Castle. Bulletins about the Queen’s death appeared on advertising boards on the side of London roads and bus stops.

And the flowers kept coming as thousands of people continued to pay their respects.

Shortly after 3.30pm today, King Charles III arrived at the Palace and was greeted by a crowd of well-wishers. He addressed a grieving nation tonight at 6pm, paying tribute to his “darling mama” and vowing to serve the nation.

Agnes Wilson is a Christian wife and mother working in communications. She and her family lived in Sydney before moving to London.