A somber silence hung in the air Saturday morning as more than 250 family, friends and community members gathered outside Saint Mark’s R.C. Church in Shoreham to remember the life of Shoreham-Wading River High School senior Melissa Marchese.
Outside the church, mylar balloons in the shape of hearts and a golden “26” flowed in the wind, commemorating the softball player’s number. Ms. Marchese, who was 18 years old when she was killed in a car crash last week, played on the varsity team for five years and earned a scholarship to the University of Hartford. Individuals who attended the funeral sported gold ribbons, one of the team’s colors.
At the podium, Rev. Thomas Tuite spoke directly to Melissa’s immediate family, parents Charlie and Marie, older sister Heather, younger brother Joey and 4-year-old niece Mya, seated in the front row.
“If there was a magic wand that we each could have to pass over your heads to make this past week go away, you would have many magic wands being passed over your heads,” he said. “There is no such thing as a magic wand — but there is such a thing called faith.”
Heather held her daughter in her arms as she shared one of the Bible readings. Their grandmother Linda read another passage.
The Rev. Tuite said it’s common for loved ones to wonder where God was Thursday, June 13, the day Ms. Marchese sustained severe brain damage following a car crash at the intersection of Route 25A and Miller Avenue. Ms. Marchese was a passenger in a vehicle with two fellow senior students on their way to a senior recognition night event scheduled for 7 p.m., according to police. They were turning left onto Route 25A from Miller Avenue when it was struck by a westbound vehicle.
“I’d have to believe that God was there,” the Rev. Tuite said. “I have to believe that for whatever reason, there were things he could do, and there were things he couldn’t do. We are here as part of the things he could do.”
Ms. Marchese’s father, Charlie, prepared a statement that the Rev. Tuite read. In it, he said his daughter successfully donated her organs to five different people in need. The names, sex and organs received for each recipient is still unknown, he said.
“Our sweet Melissa,” the Rev. Tuite started. “My angel suffered an unsurvivable brain injury, yet survived five more days in order to save the lives of five people. She is my miracle. She is my hero. In the end, she always wins. The amount of love and pride I feel is immeasurable.”
Melissa, who died two weeks before her high school graduation, is remembered for the little things she did — all with great love. The “loving” young woman transformed the family’s Shoreham house on John Street into a home through her trustworthiness, non-judgemental attitude and willingness to listen, the Rev. Tuite said.
He said Melissa regularly attended services at the church. She completed her confirmation there in October 2015 alongside longtime friends Evan Flannery, 17, and Caroline Tyburski, 18, both of Shoreham, who were also in the vehicle the day of the accident. Both attended the services for their friend.
Rev. Tuite said while the students did not make their senior recognition night, Melissa’s existence was “living proof that she is a gift from God.”
“Old age in Heaven is not honored by the number of years that we live, but rather how we live the years that are given to us,” he said. “And if that be the case, Melissa is a very old lady in heaven. She is filled with all the good work, all the laughs, all the fun that she gave to you and everyone gathered here.”
Following the service, Ms. Marchese was laid to rest at Washington Memorial Park in Mount Sinai.