The vibrant stained glass windows of Battell Chapel bore a stark contrast to the solemn mood Saturday afternoon as students, faculty and administrators gathered to celebrate the life of Luchang Wang ’17, who took her own life last Tuesday.
Those closest to Wang spoke of a friend who was a constant source of warmth and insight for those around her, despite her own internal struggles. They said her suicide last Tuesday has left a hole in the communities Wang belonged to at Yale.
As eight of those who knew Wang best took to the podium to share personal anecdotes and memories, a circle of friends spoke to Wang’s selflessness and commitment to ensuring the happiness of others.
“She looked to find meaning in a life and world she thought was hostile,” Jonathon Bowyer ’16 said. “She positively impacted our lives. These were the times that made her most happy.”
The theme of Wang’s capacity to fill any space she entered remained the focus of the memorial. Whether it was the 10-foot by five-foot freshman dorm room Wang shared with Alejandra Mena ’17 last spring, or a grand lecture hall during a Yale Political Union debate, Saturday’s speakers said they were struggling to fill those spaces in Wang’s absence.
“She whispered softly, but she whispered words that were amplified by the hundreds of people that she touched,” Soham Sankaran ’17 said.
Silliman Master Judith Krauss opened Saturday’s memorial, saying that multiple communities from across the University — including from the Yale Political Union’s Party of the Left, the Yale Effective Altruists, the Yale Record and the tech community — had come together to honor Wang and support one another. Krauss called on attendees to make a commitment to finding the life affirming relationships and care for themselves in times of grief.
“[Luchang’s] burden has been lifted,” Krauss said. “You don’t need to carry it anymore. Managing your own burdens will be plenty.”
Andrew Sherlock ’16 said he struggled to find words that could strengthen Wang’s memory. Sherlock said he hoped Wang had found “a clean well-lighted place,” quoting an Ernest Hemingway story that he and Wang used to talk about together.
Juno Pinder ’16 spoke of Wang’s unique ability to discuss general relativity alongside philosophy, as well as her natural inclination to see the laws of physics everywhere in the world around her.
Attesting to Wang’s character in addition to her intellect, Pinder said she once sat down with Wang to learn how to say “How are you?” in Chinese. But after a 10-minute lesson, Pinder discovered Wang had actually taught her to say “I am kind and smart and good and I deserve the world.”
“We were so lucky to have had as much time with her as we did,” Pinder said. “[She] was kind and smart and good and deserved the world.”
Benjamin Garfinkel ’16 said Wang would be remembered for the small gifts she left behind for others — warm pieces of winter clothes or a book that had come up in casual conversation.
Sherlock also recalled one instance when he and Wang were walking near Toad’s Place as an intoxicated passerby knocked a root beer out of his hand. Sherlock said he froze, unsure of what to do about the encounter, but Wang confidently stepped forward with a bottle of hot pink mace and the situation quickly diffused.
“We kept walking like nothing had happened,” Sherlock said, commending Wang’s unflinching courage and desire to protect her loved ones.
In an tribute to Wang’s love for folk music, Tangled Up in Blue performed “Helplessly Hoping” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Angelina Xing ’17, who spoke at the ceremony, said afterwards that the service was the first step in her healing process, adding that the memories shared were a just representation of Wang’s multifaceted nature.
“She was a complex character, stirring when she spoke softly, silent in her moments of fortitude, and her intelligence had its unique sense of humor,” Xing said.
One of Wang’s former suitemates, Leigh Vila ’17, said during the ceremony that she would miss entering her common room to be greeted by Wang’s kind expression and quiet glow. During the ceremony, Vila said Wang had a “gentle power” about her and that Vila had been permanently changed by her and Wang’s friendship.
Following the memorial, attendees gathered in Krauss’ home to share their memories of Wang over wasabi seaweed and ginger tea — snacks that Wang was known not only to have on hand, but also always to offer others.
“She didn’t lend me anything,” Mena said. “She gave things to me. Thank you for being in my life.”
This article has been updated to reflect the version published in print on Feb. 2, 2015.