Friends hold candlelight vigil in memory, celebration of Nichols
Published: Friday, October 8, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 16:02
The streetlights on the SERC B promenade are dim in the descending twilight. A heavy silence permeates the candlelight vigil. People huddle in the autumn chill with bowed heads and half-closed eyelids, cupping their candles in a moment of silence.
The focus of this semi-circle of mourners is a display table simply adorned with a small pot of yellow mums and two framed portraits of Christina "Christy" Nichols. In both pictures, she is smiling.
The friends of Nichols held a commemorative service at the SERC B promenade last Tuesday night in honor and celebration of her memory. Nichols was a junior living in SERC B when she committed suicide over two weeks ago. The idea behind the vigil was to celebrate her life rather than highlight the tragic circumstances of her death. Fifty people, from students to resident assistants, high school friends and hall mates to administrative officials like Vice President Mark Rubinstein, Director of Education and Promotion at Health Services Kathleen Grace-Bishop and Director of the Counseling Center David Cross, came to reflect on and remember Christy's life.
Pastor Larry Brickner-Wood from the Waysmeet Center led the vigil and spoke words of comfort to the quiet crowd.
"We are here to celebrate Christy's life," Brickner-Wood said. "There is a tendency to remember people in their last moments, but we should always remember the person she was in life. We should always remember her smile."
The Nichols family provided a statement to be read at the memorial, which was read by Brickner-Wood.
"We would like to thank everyone for their support during these troubled times," the statement said.
Even after the hour-long service ended, people stood in silent prayer at Nichols' memorial display, lighting candles and dropping dollar bills into a donation bucket for memorial contributions to be made in Christy's name to the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Mass.
The close loved ones who knew Christy said that they would always remember her for being a fun-loving spirit, serious student, empathetic friend, sister, daughter, dog-lover and sports buff. She rooted for the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots and Boston Celtics.
Sophomores Abby Lehman and Jamie Sheppard, suitemates of Nichols, who both moved into the SERC B suite at the commencement of spring semester last year, said that they will never forget their first impression of Nichols on the day she moved in.
"She jumped to her feet and was all like, ‘Oh, do you need any help?'"
Lehman said. "She was the friendliest person I ever met in my life."
"If you were the least bit sad, she would ask what was wrong," Sheppard said. "She just wanted to make sure things were okay for you."
"I think it speaks to Christy's memory that so many people showed up for the memorial," sophomore and friend Sara Fechner said. "It speaks to all of the lives she touched."
"She had so many friends," Lehman said. "I could never walk to class with her. I'd always be late because she had to stop and say hi to so many people along the way."
More than anything, friends said Nichols loved the sun.
"She loved, loved, loved the sun!" Lehman said. "She loved the beginning of school when it was hot."
They said that Nichols liked skipping out after classes to go to Hampton Beach and running through sprinklers.
"She had such a sunny disposition," Sheppard sad. "She practically lived in her bathing suit those first two weeks of school."
Another lifelong passion of Nichols was sports. Friends said that she played softball in high school, avidly talked about sports and rooted for Boston sports teams. She had an Antoine Walker basketball jersey that she cherished and hung on her dorm room wall.
"She loved debating sports," Sheppard said. "And she could hold her own with the boys."
Her friends said that Nichols, a political science major with a minor in Spanish, had no concrete career plans for the future, but she was possibly considering law school and was serious about her classes and schoolwork.
"She had a bright future," Sheppard said. "She was really book-smart. She had her goofball moments but she was serious when she needed to be."
"She was the first one of us to goof off, but she was also the first one to do homework," Lehman said.
Friends said that beyond being a compassionate friend, she was a dog-lover as well and loved her puppy, Casey.
"She would Skype with her mom and sisters to see her dog," Lehman said. "She would ask her mom to put Casey on the phone."
When friends look back on Nichols, the one thing they said that they would always cherish is her smile and her happiness.
"Symbolically bright things that represented happiness instinctively made her happy," Fechner said.
"Everything about her is a good memory," Sheppard said. "Everyone misses her."