The death of HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, has brought the nation to mourning,
reflection, comment on social media, and physically distanced acts of remembrance and
grieving. Our response has a noticeable public dimension because Prince Philip was such a
public person. His death brings mortality more to the fore though, at this time, mortality and
death are not exactly hidden away in this time of pandemic. According to 2017 data almost
150,000 people die each day and, I think, we are more familiar with such statistics and
graphs, at the moment, than we have been in a long time. I remember a long time ago (I think
I was a young teenager) realising that C S Lewis died on the same day as J F Kennedy but I
had only known the date of the death of one of them.
How many other people died on 9th April 2021? My
only point in asking is to make the point that for some
of us this date will recall the death of a loved one or a
friend more keenly than the death of a public figure.
The longer we live, the more dates we accumulate
where we remember and grieve. Over the past 100
years we might have moved death away from a home
to hospital or care home setting but we are never able
to remove the departed from within us. Death is part
of this world and death is part of us. I hope you are
not thinking I’m morbid – or too morbid.
I hope you might think such sentiments realistic – that is, part of living – but death is still so
often a taboo topic and one of fear which in turn can hinder, hamper, and stifle the living.
What is radical about Christianity is that God died for us. Jesus served us in this way by tack-
ling the horror of permanent separation and fear. That is what the cross is all about. That is
our Christian focus, centre, rock, and security. Jesus’ resurrection is the first public declara-
tion of this truth – that there is a new creation breaking into the old one. This love of God in
Christ and his salvation on the cross means that we – our identity and how behaviour – are
reborn, remade, ‘under new management’ and this is not the tyranny we fear but the freedom
we only dream about – the security that only love can bring – and the hope that comes with
God always ‘for us not against us’. We want to live such a life on our terms – a long life with
lots of good things please. What we discover is that Jesus walking with us in our real-messy-
up-and-down-battered-with-all-sorts-of-things-such-as-death- and-grief lives. Yes, it will have
troubles but we won’t be crushed; confusion and frustration but not driven to despair; perse-
cution but not forsakenness; we can be struck down but not destroyed; and when death is
close, yes, we will grieve but as those who have hope.
The account of Jesus and the presence of Jesus is a declaration from God that people – indi-
viduals – you! – are precious to him and he will not abandon his people and his love is for
everyone. Let us remember that all who mourn – whether death has come close in the past
few days or it was decades ago – grieve. And only Jesus is the best comforter because he is
the one gives hope. And we can be Jesus’ hands and shoulders and tears and support all
who mourn for it is truly a blessing when they are comforted. GS