Occasionally all so unexpectedly, one is so deeply exposed to another person’s thought and emotion. Many years back, I saw a televised event wherein the present Emperor of Japan was remembering his late father Emperor. The Emperor poetically mourned the absence of his father though the four seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn appeared as usual. This experience, I feel sure, added an extra dimension to my love and reverence for my parents.
Today I was quite overcome by the Bishop of London, His Eminence Richard Chartres. The Bishop was remembering ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Britain, during her funeral service.
Margaret Thatcher is considered to be a most controversial and polarizing politician who dominated British and to some extent international politics for over a decade. She overcame prejudices against, “women especially women with children”. However, when she got the top job, she was mother of arrogance to many of her colleagues who finally ganged up and sent her packing to retirement. And for the next 2 decades or so, she led a near reclusive life especially after suffering a stroke in early 1990’s and then loss of her beloved husband Denis Thatcher. Fate is a mixture of sweet and sour soap.
In death ( April 8th ) the international media again racked up old wounds but today at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Bishop of London called upon the gathering of dignitaries, politicians, family members, friends and political adversaries to let it be. “It is not a memorial service, it is a simple funeral service as requested by her”, he said. “The time is for compassion and not political difference,” he implored.
The cathedral housed more than 2000 mourners headed by Her Majesty Queen of England and Duke of Edinburgh. There were family members, Prime Ministers of Britain, past and present, Head of governments and representatives of over 170 Countries. Henry Kissinger was also there. The Archbishop of Canterbury was there to offer prayers. It was impressive and it was a state funeral in all sense. The Britons really know how to come together and showcase memorable historical events.
To this august gathering of mourners, the Bishop of London admitted that Thatcher was a controversial and polarizing figure but she did successfully serve Britain and the British when it mattered. This same sentiment was also expressed by Prime Minister Cameron a few days earlier, “She was there when our country needed most”.
The Bishop offered his condolences to the family members ( children and grandchildren ) and dedicated friends of the late Prime Minister especially to those “who stood by her side in later years”.
His Eminence Richard Chartres looks much younger than Mrs. Thatcher but it seems they were good personal friends and confidants. He talked of Margaret Thatcher’s view of individual and religion. He recounted that Margaret Thatcher said that Christianity did not provide political and economic solutions and that she had also said “Happiness and Salvation cannot be achieved in isolation but only as part of a society”.
I feel fortunate and enriched by experiencing this live telecast from the St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. And I reverently salute the Bishop of London, a religious personality with immense political knowledge and great eloquence that brought about a healing touch to the living and a memorial tribute to Baroness Margaret Thatcher. Perhaps in his memorial address, he succeeded in bringing about the personal side of the former Prime Minister without alienating her political adversaries and providing a much needed conciliatory gesture to enable a great nation to remember an extraordinary woman. Sometimes it is a great relief to find a person of such nature who uses extraordinary talent and humanness to bring dignity to a society often torn apart by political differences.