MEDIA, Pa., Dec. 13 - Friends and family gathered at St. Mary Magdalen Roman Catholic Church this afternoon to say a final good-bye to Engineering sophomore Ryan Smith.
Packing the parking lot of both the church and its nearby parish school, they clustered around the central isles of this newly constructed building, some crying quietly to themselves, others silent as if deep in thought.
A Digital Media Design major, Smith died in the early morning on Dec. 11 from injuries suffered when he fell from the roof of the Quadrangle Dec. 6.
Among the crowd were Penn students, some who had taken a bus provided by the University, others who had rented two PhillyCarShare cars for the purpose, pulling up right before the service started.
Others came from Rose Valley, the small Pennsylvania borough of fewer than a thousand residents where Smith grew up and worked as a lifeguard in the summer.
Bathed in light streaming through the newly installed stain glass windows behind him, Michael Smith, Ryan's father, struck a balance between thanks and grief in his eulogy. Thanks at the opportunity to have known and spent time with his son - grief at his loss.
"The last seven days have been beyond what we will ever be able to rationalize," Michael Smith said, adding that, despite their loss, he and his family "consider ourselves the luckiest and most grateful parents and family in the world."
Michael Smith also spoke of the "different Ryans" that his family and friends knew.
He recalled Ryan Smith's time as a member of the Strath Haven High School band, a diving coach at the local pool, as a member of his high school swim team and finally as a resident of a small town where "everyone so much enjoyed talking and spending time with [him] because of the enjoyable, funny, brilliant and happy guy he was."
Recalling his son's passion for computers, Michael Smith said that "future versions of World of Warcraft or the next Pixar release will not be what they might have been" without Ryan's talent and input.
He also revealed more information about the events leading up to his son's fall, which family and friends have said they do not believe was a suicide attempt. He said that he spoke with nurses at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where his son was taken after he fell, who told him that they saw Ryan Smith from the hospital windows "climbing skillfully over, up and around the different parts of the dorm roof."
Nurses had called for help "to protect him from slipping and falling," Michael Smith said, adding that his son's friends at Penn had told him that his son had often climbed on the roof.
After he finished speaking, the mass continued in the subdued church, with readings from the Bible from family members, as well as a rendition of the Ave Maria by the cantor.
Ryan Smith's casket was then processed out of the church. His friends and family followed behind, perhaps comforted by the closing words of his father's eulogy: "You are a part of us, and [we] know that you will be with us always. We know you will help us in the future as you always did in the past."
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