Meghan Elizabeth Keeney was remembered Saturday as a young woman who was high-spirited, enthusiastic and caring, full of life, love and kindness for everyone around her.
She was “an incredibly pure-hearted girl,” recalled Amy Van Scoten, assistant coach of Warwick High School’s field hockey team, on which Keeney proudly wore No. 33.
The crowd for Saturday’s service of remembrance and thanksgiving overflowed the 700-seat worship hall at Lancaster Evangelical Free Church. Rows of additional seats were set up in the lobby and hallway.
Keeney died Oct. 28 at Lancaster General Hospital of injuries suffered in an eight-vehicle crash outside the high school two days earlier, on her 17th birthday.
The collision was precipitated by Debra Slaymaker-Walker, 63, who police have said was driving erratically. She has remained hospitalized and unconscious.
With Keeney in the car were fellow students Jack Nicholson and Rylan Beebe, all of them friends since elementary school. Nicholson died that night; Beebe was seriously injured, but is recovering.
Leading Saturday’s service was Dustin Sauder, executive pastor of Manheim Brethren in Christ Church, whose daughter and Keeney were fast friends.
LNP was given permission for a reporter to attend.
The Keeney family wanted the day to be “as if Meghan is right there with us,” Sauder said.
That meant there had to be music, which she loved. First there was “Sing Joyfully,” performed by students from Warwick’s choir. Then came a Disney song, something Sauder said Keeney would have insisted on: “If I Never Knew You,” from the movie “Pocahontas,” performed solo.
The lyrics were poignant and fitting: “If I never knew you, if I never felt this love, I would have no inkling of how precious life can be.”
Young people and adults alike shared stories of the Warwick junior’s warm heart and profound effect on them.
“She was focused, positive, and she had great spirit about her,” said Warwick field hockey coach Bob Derr. “She just brought a huge light wherever she was.”
Friends said they guide their decision-making by asking themselves, “What would Meghan do?” Some said she helped them turn their lives around and even kept them from self-harm.
In a message from Rylan Beebe, read by a student on his behalf, the injured young man called her “the love of my life” and said receiving her smile was “the purest kind of happiness there could ever be.”
“I know she will always be with me no matter what,” he said.
Sauder highlighted Keeney’s generosity: The day of the crash, she had planned to give a present, a book on playing the ukelele, to a patient who shared her birthday at Moravian Manor, where she worked.
He said her family wanted the community to know that while their loss is devastating, they’re grateful for their 17 years with her.
What lives on about Keeney — and about anyone — isn’t trophies or ribbons but “how she was with people,” Sauder said.
“What’s really important is who you are and how you walk with others,” he said.
Nicholson’s funeral is Sunday, Nov. 4.