MERRICK, N.Y. — The chapel of the N.F. Walker Funeral Home overflowed Saturday with the friends and family of Andre Narcisse ’12. Crowding into side rooms and hallways, attendees at the memorial service cried, prayed and sang together, as Reverend Robert Thompson spoke in his eulogy about Narcisse’s exuberance and perseverance.
Friday would have been Narcisse’s 20th birthday. After his suitemates found the Branford College sophomore dead in his dorm Nov. 1, the state medical examiner’s officer performed an autopsy and commissioned a toxicology report. The cause of Narcisse’s death may not be known for up to six weeks.
After a week of mourning, during which friends gathered for a vigil on Monday and wore blue in his memory on Tuesday, over 30 Yale students gathered Saturday morning to take a bus — organized by Branford — to the service on Long Island. The service was traditional, with hymns, a short sermon and liturgical readings in both English and Haitian Creole.
In his eulogy, Thompson, school minister of Phillips Exeter Academy, where Narcisse attended high school, described Narcisse’s devotion to the school, but also the excitement with which he matriculated at Yale. Narcisse transferred to Exeter in 2006; his younger sister, Iriane Narcisse, still attends the school. Though Iriane Narcisse was listed in the program to deliver part of the eulogy, only Thompson came forward to speak.
He praised Narcisse, a first-generation American, for his ambition and drive.
“The barriers of race, class and gender — [Narcisse] surmounted them,” Thompson said.
He added that while family and friends should cherish Narcisse’s memory, they should also focus on lending their love and support to Iriane.
Thompson began to sing Amazing Grace, and some in the audience wept as they joined in.
After filing past the coffin at the funeral home, family members, Exeter graduates and Yale students gathered at the Greenfield Cemetery, a sprawling, tree-lined site in Uniondale five miles from the funeral home. The day was cold and sunny as the group gathered in a circle around Narcisse’s grave and recited the Lord’s Prayer.
Family members, many of them wearing blue ribbons on their lapels or other blue articles of clothing, placed red carnations and roses on the casket. A full half-hour after they had driven away, Yale students stayed to pay their own respects. As they continued to pile on flowers, a group of male Exeter graduates approached the site together, draping the yellow and blue scarf of Wentworth, Narcisse’s high school dormitory, across the casket.
Sheets of cardstock placed around the funeral home during the service bore Narcisse’s picture and a poem, printed in French, by the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran. The piece describes the unity between life and death.
“If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life,” reads an English translation of the poem.
In an e-mail to parents Friday, Yale College Dean Mary Miller said students should seek guidance from adults as well as peers. She added that there was no indication that Narcisse’s death was associated with the flu.
“Uncertainties can be as disconcerting as certainties,” she said in the e-mail, adding that this semester has brought abnormal challenges and sorrows, alluding to the murder of graduate student Annie Le GRD ’13 in September. “Andre was a beacon of light and energy for many different circles of friends, and in his sad death, those students have begun to find one another.”
Narcisse is survived by his parents, Pierre-Richard and Jasmine Narcisse, and his sister, Iriane.