Christmas trees and wreaths decorate Our Lady of the Snow Church for the holiday season -- festivities that Christa Zepf of Blue Point did not live to celebrate this year.
Two days before midnight Mass, Zepf -- the sole fatality of Wednesday's 35-vehicle wreck on the Long Island Expressway -- lay in a coffin in the nave of her church.
Zepf, 68, had been en route to a Riverhead outlet mall to go Christmas shopping when she was caught in the deadly crash.
On Saturday at Zepf's funeral Mass, the Rev. Charles Pokoo lamented in his homily how what one person does can devastate so many others.
"The mistake of one person can affect so many people. And if you learn the story of what happened on that fateful day, you know what it is," he said. "Just one mistake and look at this -- so many people who were affected."
Police have not yet fully explained the cause or causes of the pileup, on the eastbound LIE in Yaphank. Police said the investigation is continuing, and no one has been charged.
The crash began when a tractor trailer from Vermont that was hauling debris from superstorm Sandy collided with multiple vehicles, police said. During the pileup that followed, the Toyota that Zepf was driving was hit in the front and back.
The company that owns the tractor trailer, Jewell Transportation Inc., has been cited for nearly two dozen unsafe driving violations in the past two years, according to federal records. Jewell did worse in the "unsafe driving" category than nearly 87 percent of comparable transportation companies.
Zepf leaves behind a husband, Hubert; a daughter, Jennifer; and her toddler grandson, Kyle -- whom Zepf was eager to watch grow up.
"Hubert, how are you doing?" I know it's tough, but let the faith hold you together," Pokoo said during the Mass. "And Jennifer, it's tough, I know. And always when you feel like crying, just cry, because crying is good. It helps the soul."
He said Zepf left a sheet of paper scripting how she wanted her final rites to unfold -- a document Jennifer found.
"Christa had written everything up," Pokoo said, down to what would be sung during the Mass, which lasted an hour.
Yesterday's mourners ranged from people who knew Zepf for decades to those who had just met her.
"We watched each other's children grow up," Marie Foley, who lives a block away from the Zepfs, said in the church parking lot. "She was a beautiful person. She was a good mom."
A contractor, Larry Densing, had just met the Zepfs last month. Densing has been helping the couple repair their home, which had been badly damaged by Sandy.
"I've only known her for a month, and she's one of the nicest people you've ever met." He recounted how she would often make him lunch when he was working on the home.
Zepf wasn't above getting down and dirty to be part of the repair effort, Densing said.
"She was down in the crawl space," he said.
It was during a lull in the repairs that Zepf took a break to go Christmas shopping out east.
She never made it back home.