The funeral for Belgium’s dowager Queen Fabiola was held today.
There were some touching and sad photos from the proceedings. Young Prince Gabriel sobbed, and Queen Mathilde leaned in to console him. King Phillippe, at one point, just stared into space with a look of utter shock and disbelief in his eyes.
I know what that heartbreak feels like. Fabiola was 86, just a little older than my grandfather, who died earlier this year at 84.
If Fabiola was anything like Ralph, I’d wager that no one saw her as elderly. When she died, it probably felt as if she’d gone far too soon. One of the many reasons losing Ralph was so difficult was that he seemed much younger. Instead of 84, he was more like 64. His personality was positive and energetic. He kept his daily routines, had a healthy diet, and had a razor-sharp intelligence that he fortified with science news, politics, and crossword puzzles. I imagine Queen Fabiola lived in a similar vein, defying age at each turn.
Ralph’s sheer force of will to survive, along with his bravery in the face of what he knew was inevitable still humbles and astounds me. Certainly I had no idea that he would die. I’ve feared it, but it always seemed to happen to other people. It never occurred to me that it would happen to him. And while I hoped he’d regain strength and live to see my daughter grow up to at least teenagerhood, he already knew that time was short. He never let on, though. He fought to the last.
Then the bad dream became real. For the Belgian royals, for me, for all of us who have lost an elderly loved one. The body was, in fact, too old. That strong, intelligent being needed to be released to return to God and be free from the shackles of a human form.
So to the Belgian Royal Family, please take heart. To all of you who have lost someone you love, especially if this is the first Christmas without them, remember 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 18. They are verses that I now live by and cherish. We will meet again. Until then, it’s just a long wait as we all make our way home.