Were you there? My mother, Eileen, and her sister were there – outside Buckingham Palace for Victory in Europe Day in 1945. Mum later recalled, “Doris and I were in London on VE Day, celebrating the end of the war with thousands of others. After all the awfulness of war, there was great relief and joy that it was all over, though we weren’t to know then that the hardship would continue for some years.”
Were you there? 50 years later I was outside the palace with members of my family, standing with crowds of people by the gates from the palace into Green Park. On the balcony of the palace stood the Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, in brightly coloured outfits – easily seen and reflecting the joyous occasion, though the Queen Mother was seen – on television pictures – to wipe away a tear. Victory, but at a cost.
The Queen’s message two days ago, from Windsor Castle, began with footage of her father, the King, on VE Day. This year’s remembrance is more muted than 75 or 50 years ago, because of lockdown. No palace balcony appearance, no crowds, no hype. We can, however, quietly reflect: Life is fragile. Others gave so that we can live.
Were you there? “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” “Were you there when he rose up from the grave?” No. But you may mark its anniversary. People of faith do. From death came life. Jesus gave his life so that we may have life to the full. My mother spoke of “joy” and “relief.” Whatever “hardship” we face, we can thank God that, through Jesus, we can know lasting joy, hope and – yes – relief.