WAYLAND, Mass. — When the First Parish church in Wayland filled to its capacity of 400 on Saturday afternoon, over one hundred family members and friends braved the pouring rain to stand by a row of open windows and listen to the memorial service of Marina Keegan ’12.
Family and friends travelled from as far as Wyoming and Minnesota to pay respects to Keegan, who died May 27 in a car accident near Dennis, Mass. Several of Keegan’s close friends spoke during the service, with most telling anecdotes about her writing, acting and influence on their own lives, and others performing songs in tribute. Keegan’s father, Kevin Keegan, thanked attendees and said the outpouring of support from people around the country has helped his family cope with its loss.
“I am fortunate that I don’t have to move from my safe haven where I have found the other side of loneliness,” her father said. “When you see a tear in my eye, it’s not because I miss Marina. It’s because I am overcome with gratitude and love that I have for you, for all of you.”
Those in attendance were given a pamphlet with excerpts from Keegan’s writing, including her WEEKEND cover “Even artichokes have doubts,” her second place 2011 Wallace Prize piece “Reading aloud” and her 2012 commencement essay “The Opposite of Loneliness.”
The latter has been read on the News’ website by over one million people, the highest view count of any piece since the News began publishing online. Several speakers at the service discussed the piece and the national fame it has brought Keegan in the days after her death.
“I knew she would be famous, but death made her famous fast,” Anne Fadiman, Keegan’s former teacher and Yale’s Francis Writer in Residence, said in her remarks.
Fadiman said she feared fame was “blurring [Keegan’s] outline.” She urged attendees to remember both Marinas: the elegant writer, as seen in the now iconic photograph of Keegan in a Yale sweater and yellow jacket, but also the “strong, fierce, witty woman” Keegan was in her daily life.
Luke Vargas, a close friend of Keegan’s, said she was compassionate and “drawn to the warmth of others.” He recalled a message Keegan sent him: “I’m honored that you’ve shared your happiness with me. I promise to keep it bottled, sip slightly from your supply and hand it back to you if ever you should forget you have it.”
“I’ll hold on to those words forever, but I know I’m far from the only one whose happiness Marina was guarding, far from the only one who trusted Marina,” he said. “Marina, thank you for guarding my happiness.”
Keegan’s mother, Tracy Keegan, spoke about the things her daughter had taught her, recalling such lessons as “a bed is actually a desk,” “books are to be worshipped” and “if any part of the floor is showing, one must immediately drape or toss something on it.”
Tracy Keegan also recalled helping her daughter move out after commencement and asking her what she thought of Barbara Walter’s speech, in which the famous journalist and television anchor asked students to raise their hands if they had found their passion. She said she remembered how her daughter looked up at her and replied, smiling, “You know what mom, I was one of the students who raised my hand. I have found my bliss.”
“Marina’s death has become a summons to life for the world, through her ending is a beginning,” Kevin Keegan said at the end of the ceremony. “With our tears as full today as the raindrops, let them soon turn to happy memories. Marina would have wanted that.”
Keegan was killed in an accident on Route 6 heading eastbound when the car she was in, driven by Michael Gocksch ’12, drifted off the road and hit the right-side guardrail, rolling over at least twice, according to the Massachusetts State Police. Keegan was pronounced dead at the scene, while Gocksch was taken to Cape Cod Hospital and released later that evening.
An on-campus service to remember Keegan will be held when students return in the fall, Yale College Dean Mary Miller wrote in a May 30 email
Correction: June 6 2012
An earlier version of this article misquoted Luke Vargas’s words at the service.