I hope this is the only time I'm going to review a mass for the dead. I will say that the priest who gave a mass for my relative who died said all the usual things that would have been appropriate on most occasions. That she was called by the Lord, who saw that she was suffering and took her to spare her any more pain. He mentioned that wakes often became social occasions, reunions with friends and relatives not seen for years, but we must not forget the spiritual reason for gathering together. He played Celine Dion and Josh Groban's very affecting rendition of "The Prayer" which made everyone cry, and a song "Pananagutan" (Responsibility, loosely translated) which begins (in translation): "Not one of us lives for oneself alone, not one of us dies for oneself alone."
All perfectly correct and sufficiently comforting when the deceased is an octogenarian who had suffered ill health in her last days. But this was a twenty-one-year-old girl who had suffered depression and taken her own life. You can see then how wrong, how dangerous even some of his words were. How could we accept it was her time, that it was God who called her? She had chosen her time, and we all felt it was a terrible mistake and wondered where God was through all this. And the lyrics of "The Prayer" could only cause fresh pain when you realize that this must have been her prayer in her life, which had as yet not been answered:
I pray you'll be our eyes and watch us where we go.
And help us to be wise in times when we don't know
Let this be our prayer when we lose our way
Lead us to the place, guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe
We ask that life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love....
And there's the other song: "No one dies for oneself alone." Why didn't she think of that? Her poor family.
I will say that it is hard to think of what to say in this situation and give the priest benefit of the doubt that he didn't know what the circumstances of the death were. Though really, once you hear the deceased was quite young you'd have to ask these questions.
When my grandmother died, she had cancer and we were all expecting her to die sooner than she did. Her suffering was drawn out, so you could accept in this case that death was a release, was something of a relief to us all even though we did grieve. And we did have a reunion with many people we had not seen for years, since my grandmother had become less active socially for sometime. Some of them had known about her illness and had managed to contact her before she died. After consoling each other, we could even laugh when sharing memories. This situation was so much different. Most who came were close relatives and classmates, people who had just seen her recently. And how could anyone relax and share memories when we were in shock at the suddenness of her death?
I am no theologian, but I do have experience with depression. Here is is what I think the priest should have said:
It is hard for us to understand why this happened, especially since you can see there were so many people who loved her. Why couldn't she have been happy, and why couldn't she have thought of her family, why couldn't she have had faith that things would get better for her?
But we must remember that depression is an illness. It is an illness that affects one's mind, one's thinking. She had just had enjoyable holidays and other celebrations, but none of them was able to ward off the overwhelming feeling of sadness. She must have felt she would never get better, that her life was worthless, that she was just a burden to her family. None of this was true, of course, but in her twisted state of mind she could not see that. In her heart, she must have felt she was doing the right thing. And God sees what is in one's heart.
We wish she could have been strong and brave enough to hang on and choose to struggle through life. But we also understand how hard it was for her. God knows all that she went through and will be merciful.
Perhaps the one appropriate song is my father's personal theme song:
I'm always chasing rainbows
Watching clouds drifting by
My schemes are just like all my dreams
Ending in the sky
Some fellows look and find the sunshine
I always look and find the rain
Some fellows make a winning sometimes
I never even make a gain
Believe me, I'm always chasing rainbows
Waiting to find a little bluebird in vain.
My father also suffered from depression. I never knew this was a favorite song of his, until he died, and I had never heard this old song until his funeral. But now I see why this song meant so much to him. It expresses just what a person suffering from depression feels, that the bluebird of happiness will always elude him or her.
Certainly it was not true this girl's life was meaningless, but her illness kept her from seeing the purpose of her life, the possibilities open to her. We know she made a mistake, but God will not judge her, for her mind was clouded by her illness. We know who she really was, what she really was like when she was not ill, and so does God.