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Two Funerals

I can’t help comparing the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held last weekend, and the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, two weeks previous. Both were world events, both involved millions of viewers, both involved introspection and deep thought, both generated an emotional and spiritual response. The differences in setting are obvious but similarities are worth pondering. The day after the royal funeral I attended the funeral of my close friend and  colleague Bruce Flinn, a far more personal and poignant occasion. I may return to the conference in future blogs, but my thoughts on the two funerals are already two weeks late.

The Queen’s death and funeral events famously involved the whole nation. Rippling out it affected the whole Globe, but the full impact could only be sensed by Britishers who live and work here. The nation slowed down for a week and on the day of the funeral put up a “closed” sign. All this revealed more than the loss of a much loved “nation’s grandma”. It demonstrated a universal need for a sense of place in the universe and meaning in our existence — a shared human yearning for stability in a turbulent world. Few of the hundreds of thousand who gathered in London or the millions who viewed remotely would be conscious of this and would struggle, if pressed, to coherently explain their feelings and motives.

Her death symbolised the passing of a more settled age. She represented the traditional values of Britain, sadly eroded in her own lifetime: duty, loyalty, respect, courage, hard work, Christian faith, commitment to marriage vows and the central importance of families. A cluster of core values that define social norms and describe the character of a nation. No matter that individuals (including some of her own family) slide and fail occasionally, as long as the torch-bearer is alive a majority respond and tacitly agree a shared standard of decency accepted as the norm. In an age characterised by blatant self-interest, disregard and disintegration of restrictions, her life stands out the more prominently.

Of course, her funeral was highly formal and ceremonial but thankfully rooted in her Christian faith. Bruce’s funeral was less royally ritualistic but infinitely finer in spiritual power, personal depth and family focus. If the nation could have viewed it they would have been inspired to greater heights. His whole family of 39 sang a simple Primary song, and tears began to flow. His six living children each spoke, remembering their dad. Each one humorous, each one loving, each describing a disciple of Jesus Christ. Like the time when he stopped the car to pick up a stranded cyclist, put the bike in the back and took the man home. Or the time when he stopped to cut someone’s hedge, or the time when he helped a neighbour save his caravan in a storm, while the roof of his own barn blew off. The funeral service reflected the man. Bruce was, in the finest sense, a gentleman. Always willing to help and an inspiration to those he taught.  We grieve with Maggie and her crew, but give thanks for a life well lived.

Two funerals, both inspiring, but I know the one I enjoyed the most. I can’t aspire to be the new King (nor would I want to), but I can aspire to be more like Bruce Flinn.


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