There will not be another day like this in my lifetime. I don't speak as a husband, father or son but as a citizen.
This is a day we knew would come, yet thought would never arrive. How could it? For most of us alive we've never known a time when Queen Elizabeth was not our Monarch - she has abided as that one constant through every changing season of our nation. I was but a young boy of 12 when we celebrated the Queens Silver Jubilee and hidden somewhere away in the archives I still have my commemorative book mark from Selectus Ribbon Makers of Biddulph, a company long since past into history whilst only this year we went onto celebrate her Platinum Jubilee. And that's the point.
Today brings with it a profound sense of loss - yet more than this, of disorientation. In trying to come to terms with my own feelings, I struggle to reconcile how one can be moved so deeply by the loss of someone I didn't know personally. My closest encounter with Her Majesty was a view of her on the balcony of the Council House on Nottingham's Market Square during her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and to be honest I've never presented as an ardent Monarchist - but this is different.
Moments of this magnitude remind us of something we ought never to forget - and that's our collective consciousness. 'No man is an Island,' wrote John Donne, and for all our individualism today reminds us that we are, at heart, creatures of community. Nations are forged and fall on leaders and communities are held together by the invisible qualities of good ones and subtly corrupted by the toxic actions of poor ones. Oft times we fail to realize this - we think we can tamper with values of decency and faithfulness with no ill effects caused to the collective whole. Like pouring sewage into the seas or carbons into the atmosphere we believe our toxicity will have little impact only to realize when its too late of the deep peril of our state.
Our loss today is not only of our Monarch - but also of what she quietly stood for. These qualities are not given to short termism, quick fixes or sound bites. We celebrate her life in part for who she was - but equally for how she held herself. The complexities of life are not dealt with through simplicity as much as they are longevity. Of consistently turning up, serving, offering oneself - of seeing past me to the other - to understand the community and how our consistency plays a vital role in its ongoing cohesion and flourishing.
The reality is we can't monetize these things - so therefore we don't always value them. Yet at the same time we do know when we are loosing them and that's part of our grief. We are desperately looking for such qualities: longevity, grace and service and we struggle to find them. No wonder we mourn what we have lost and that the heart of a nation is torn - we are witnessing the passing of an era and in that passing the qualities we only know are important when they are no longer with us. Where will we look for these things? Politics, education, the free market, religion? No these things are not borne of institutions but rather are embedded in the hearts of people - persons, who are prepared to live to a higher calling than simply self interest and Queen Elizabeth modelled this and did so through good times and bad. And so our feeling of loss is not only for who she was - but what she represented. And what she represented are qualities that hold peoples and communities together. There is something to longevity, consistency, to service delivered over a lifetime that is not easily replaced and part of understanding something of the disorientation of this day, as well as our grief, is in seeing this.
Of one thing we can be sure we will never witness another Monarch like this one in our lifetime. What we'd better pray is that the qualities she embodied live on in her people she has left behind.