No one posed the question outright, but clergymen who spoke at Saturday's memorial service for 22-year-old Princess Flores Almonidovar proceeded as though everyone in attendance needed an answer:
Why would a just God allow the death of a young woman who was, by all accounts, an angel on earth who financially supported her family and even sent money to relatives back in The Philippines while putting her own self-interests on hold?
Police say Almonidovar was killed on impact early Jan. 3 after a 24-year-old man suspected of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol collided with her car in southwest Bakersfield.
One by one, pastors wrestled with the apparent injustice in front of an overflow crowd of more than 1,000 mourners at St. John's Lutheran Church.
The Rev. Pete Baker, senior pastor at Fairfax Assembly of God, dismissed pat notions that God needed "a flower for his garden" or that one day all such answers will become clear to believers.
"Something went horribly wrong here," he said. "And there are no answers in ourselves."
He told the story of Israel's King David, who lost his youngest and favorite child to illness. As David told his advisors, his goal now was to live in such a way that he might see the child in the hereafter.
"This is not the end of the story," Baker said. "You will see (Almonidovar) again."
The Rev. Eric Angeles, Philippine ethnic language presbyter at SoCal Network AG, also avoided easy answers.
"Believers are not exempt" from suffering and tragedies, Angeles said. He said Almonidovar's death had caused him to ask how he would handle the loss of one of his four children.
"Many times our questions are not answered," he said.
Later, in a prayer for Almonidovar's parents, the senior pastor at New Beginnings Worship, the Rev. Sandy Wilson, said there are reasons things happen, even though believers may not understand them.
"Because you are God anyway, no matter what," he said.
Almonidovar was the eldest of three children who had immigrated to Bakersfield at age 11. A decorated student and accomplished chess player who performed on drums at church, she gave up an offer to attend the University of California at Santa Cruz in order to take a quicker route to providing for her family.
She worked long hours as a respiratory therapist at San Joaquin Community Hospital, where workmates say she made it part of her job to keep spirits high with knock-knock jokes and silly faces. Although she harbored dreams of traveling the world and becoming a model, Almonidovar decided all this would have to wait until she could pay off the mortgage on her family's home.
Toward the end of the service, Almonidovar's father, the Rev. Joseph Almonidovar, stood and spoke to the gathering.
He thanked everyone present, and he thanked God for the 22 years he was able to share with his daughter.
"Of course I could have asked for more," he said, "but God is too wise to be mistaken. Amen."