Some reflections on Mya Dale’s life and death
by Sara Gavit
Rev. Sara Gavit is the Pastoral Minister at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Anchorage. Here, she shares her thoughts immediately following the June 29 funeral of Mya Dale, who died June 20.
First, my deepest sympathies for all those who feel the loss of Mya. Please know that you are in my prayers as well as the prayers of St. Mary’s and other caring faith communities.
Mental Health. Those who attended the service today heard the pastor say that suicide is a selfish act. I disagree. Suicide is a desperate attempt to end pain and mental anguish. Pain so severe that the one in the throes of deep depression cannot see any other way to stop it. The important thing to remember about mental illness is that when one is living with the illness, their thinking is often impaired. Mya made a decision – a fatal decision – when she was in that dark place and her mind was clouded. (Sometimes, people leave angry notes, blaming other for driving them to this place. Again, it’s important to remember that it’s the illness talking.) And though I don’t know what she was thinking, I doubt she intended on hurting anyone. She just wanted to stop hurting.
We typically feel anger, betrayal, and unimaginable pain when someone we love commits suicide. And shame and guilt. We ask “why didn’t I see the warning signs?” “If only I had been a better friend, this wouldn’t have happened.” The truth is that her illness, in the end, took her beyond our reach. Beyond our love, beyond our care, beyond reason. Please be gentle with yourselves and others as you grieve through this. If you need someone to listen to you, there are resources available. Call me at 563-3341.
Salvation. Some people are concerned about the afterlife and what happens to someone who commits suicide. My prayer life, personal spiritual experiences and ministry inform my deep, unshakable belief that God is love. I believe that Mya — like all who have died — is enveloped in God’s loving embrace. I believe she is finally at peace. She is in a place where there is no more pain, no more anxiety, no discrimination or prejudice or violence. My faith tradition, like so many others, believes that life doesn’t end; it just changes. I envision a very hyperactive guardian angel now hovering around us all! An angel with the brightest smile I’ve ever seen. The God I know would not judge her due to her mental illness any more than God would judge her for having a physical illness. People who die from cancer do not go to Hell. People who die from heart attacks do not go to Hell. People who experience depression do not go the Hell.
Hope. It may seem that Mya’s death was senseless and that nothing good can come from this loss. And yet, as I listen to the stories and see the photos of her life, it becomes apparent that we are all called to continue the work she started. We are called to stand up for each other, to be present with one another. We are called to create a more just society and a safer world. And we are called to dance. A lot.