Palpable grief filled the air Monday morning as mourners gathered at Our Lady of Good Counsel R.C. Church in Mattituck to remember the life of 27-year-old Kelley Blanchard.
Kelley, a Southold High School graduate who lived in Riverhead, died in a tragic boating crash in Mattituck Nov. 10. Her sister Megan, 29, suffered serious injuries in the crash and has been recovering at Stony Brook University Hospital. She overcame her injuries to join over 100 family members and friends for the services Monday.
From the altar, Monsignor Joseph Staudt delivered a moving homily after reading a passage from the Bible.
He recalled a discussion he had nearly 40 years ago with an atheist.
“[He said] look at all the suffering that people go through. If there really was a God, would God let his children suffer? I said, ‘You know what, that’s a very understandable argument.’ I get asked at times, ‘Where is God?’ Very understandable questions with no specific answer…Faith involves somewhat of darkness,” he said.
“If we can believe in the resurrection, if we can believe that Kelley is more alive than you and I, that can help us in our grief and sorrow,” Msgr. Staudt said. “The bonds of love are not destroyed by death.”
Reading from statements submitted by family and friends as well as Kelley’s obituary, Msgr. Staudt spoke about her vibrant, larger-than-life personality.
“When it comes to describing a loved one’s personality, most everyone always describes that person as being full of life and passionate about their family,” he said.
“And that’s true. But that wouldn’t do justice to who Kelley was.”
Those seated in the pews nodded along as Msgr. Staudt spoke about how Kelley was full of “animation,” how her smile could light up a room, how dearly she loved her family, animals and the East End and how she became a role model to colleagues.
He urged those in attendance to live by her example.
“God put Kelley here for a reason…you have to figure out what’s your job. Do you make the world a better place? [Kelley] did in her own unique way.”
Though the circumstances of Kelley’s too-soon death are painful, he urged family and friends to remember and pray to Kelley for guidance when life inevitably gets tough. But he urged them to leave with a sense of peace.
“Kelley, from what I’ve heard of her, wouldn’t want us to be heavy with that grief and to be walking around as though life has to be coped with and endured,” he said. “She would probably say ‘live your life.’ Learn from her.”
Following the church service, family and friends gathered at the American Legion Hall in Southold before a private burial ceremony.
Memorial donations may be made to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Photo caption: The casket is brought out of Our Lady of Good Counsel R.C. Church in Mattituck Monday morning. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)