Members of the Penn community gathered together to celebrate the life of Nursing junior Arya Singh, who died last Friday.
Friends and family shared memories of Singh with those assembled at the event. Although many attending comforted each other through tears, there was laughter as those close to Singh remembered her light spirit and shared stories.
“It was a very ‘Arya’ event,” Wharton junior Nikita Anand, Singh’s close friend and roommate, said. “It shows the diversity of memories she had with just everyone on campus, ranging from serious memories to lighthearted memories to just really encapsulating Arya.”
Singh’s family attended the event.
“Put simply, I just want my sister back,” Singh’s sister and School of Nursing doctoral student Shweta Singh said. “I want to have a sleepover with her, and stuff my face with her … I want to give her the Valentine I wrote for her the night before she passed.”
The event — “A Celebration of the Life of Arya Singh” — began at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, as over a hundred community members gathered in front of the Benjamin Franklin statue on College Green. Candles were passed around the group as the family released a paper lantern into the sky.
Led by Singh’s family, the procession of lit candles walked along the brick path in near silence to Houston Hall. A slideshow progressed through pictures of Singh as the attendees filled the floor space and the balcony of the Hall of Flags.
The University Chaplain, Reverend Chaz Howard, opened the vigil with a prayer.
“It’s a testimony to the quality of a life that amidst our tears, we can still gather to celebrate,” Howard said. “May those of you who received one of Arya’s famed hugs put an arm around the shoulder of a friend in need.”
Wharton junior and Singh’s close friend Tiffany D’Cunha remembered how Singh jokingly introduced her as an “illegal F.O.B. from India” to the extended Singh family.
“It’s her that’s giving me the strength to speak,” she said. “Arya, I hope you know I love you and always will … rest easy, my beautiful best friend.”
Anand shared that Singh made her memorize the day they became friends. She added that Singh had an “uncanny ability to consume” Greek Lady gyros.
“She drank in joy,” Anand said. “Arya, I love you dearly.”
Videos of Singh — from her dancing to her as a child to her PennHype “blooper” videos with Anand — interspersed the slideshow and garnered laughs from the attendees.
Several of Singh’s other friends stood up to share their own memories of her.
“She was the only kind gossiper I knew,” said Wharton junior Tim Flank, to much laughter. “She was something special.”
College junior Nicholas Thomas added that Singh was the kind of person for whom “you put off studying the night before an exam” to be with.
“Coming from a pre-med, that means a lot,” he said.
Representatives from Counseling and Psychological Services were at the event to support those in need.
“Tonight’s a celebration, but it’s OK to cry too,” Howard reminded those assembled.
The Vice Provost for University Life, the Nursing School, Rodin College House and the Pan-Asian American Community House helped with the event, according to Howard.
Cribs for Kids advocate Dorothy Cam, who attended the celebration of Singh’s life, worked with Singh over the summer.
“She made unpacking boxes fun,” Cam remembered.
College junior Alex McCabe lived in the room across from Singh freshman year and remembered her “giant smile.”
“She lit up a room,” McCabe added. “She was the life of every party.”
The cause of Singh’s death still remains unclear pending the conclusion of a report from the Medical Examiner’s office.
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