“In moments like this it’s easy to find ourselves at a loss for words,” Fr Brendan Gatt said to start off a speech he gave yesterday at the funeral of teenage cancer victim Rebecca ‘Becs’ Zammit Lupi.
Yet the priest managed to find some powerful words for the occasion, publishing his speech on Facebook after receiving permission form Becs’ parents.
This is the speech in full:
“Archbishop Scicluna has invited me to say a few words about why we’re here today. In moments like this it’s easy to find ourselves at a loss for words; but since – as the cliché goes – “a picture says a thousand words”, I’d like to show you a picture and allow it to speak to us.
Throughout her life, and throughout her ordeal this past year, Becs was blessed to have a super-talented photographer in Darrin, her father. Out of the thousands of pictures documenting Rebecca’s painful journey, this image – for me – perfectly encapsulates the reason why we’re here today. This graceful young woman, her body already ravaged by illness, standing in a hospital corridor which – however many cartoon characters you paint on the wall – will never be a place of fun and joy.
And yet her indomitable spirit speaks to us even through this picture. What could have been a depressing image, a forlorn reminder of loss, of dashed hopes and unachieved potential is transformed; with Becs at its centre and through the eyes and lens of a loving father it becomes an image of hope, a reminder that hope is stronger than despair, and that life and love will have the final word, not death. For Becs, a hospital hallway railing became a dancer’s barre at which to practice her ballet moves; she reminds us that even through unimaginably excruciating physical suffering, the dancer inside her remains free.
This Mass today has been described as a celebration of her life; and so indeed it is. We are here to raise a hymn of gratitude to God for her brief but beautiful life, for the many talents she was blessed with; for the people who loved her, and for so many people – and creatures – whose lives she touched, even through her final ordeal.
But we aren’t only here to celebrate her life; because that would mean looking behind us, into the past, and staying there with our memories. But Becs doesn’t just live in our memories; our faith reminds us that she now lives forever in the heart of God himself. And so, while celebrating her life, we also allow ourselves to mourn her death. But we do in a Christian manner, filled with the virtue of hope. Because Christian mourning is not a bottomless black hole of grief; Christian mourning is a tunnel – dark, it is true – but one leading to infinite joy at the other end.
I started off these few words pointing you to a poignant picture of Becs which reminds us who she was. Allow me now to point you to another picture which reminds us who we are. It’s an image we’re all familiar with: the crucified Christ. We are here because of Becs but we are also here because of Him. As he hung, racked with pain, upon the cross, two persons especially looked upon him with infinite love: his Divine Father from Heaven, and his Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross. Like Darrin and Marisa gazing with love upon Becs and wishing they could somehow carry away her pain.
May Our Lord be our consolation today as we are reminded of the gift of eternal life which is now being opened up for Becs. And may Our Lady remind us that beyond the dark tunnel of grief and mourning there is the light and joy of the Resurrection.”