Sunil Tripathi's family hung photos throughout a chapel on the Brown University campus, welcomed friends and family into the small sanctuary and then simply sat in silence.
It's a tradition in Quaker services -- the idea being that anyone who feels moved to speak should do so. And during the memorial service last Saturday, those who knew and loved the 22-year-old Brown student and Radnor native did just that.
Sunil Tripathi went missing about a month ago in Providence; his family said he had suffered from depression and left a vague note that hinted at suicidal intent. But the Tripathis held out hope, marshaling an extraordinary social media campaign and traveling from Pennsylvania to Providence, R.I. to search for him full-time.
Their grief was compounded in the days after the Boston marathon bombing, when Sunil was falsely reported as a suspect in the attack on Twitter and other social media sites. The Tripathis were reeling -- but hoped that the burst of publicity, however negative, might reach Sunil and encourage him to come home.
Just days later, Sunil was found dead in a Providence river.
In an email, his family wrote that "professors, students, and friends" gathered on Saturday to speak about "being touched by the small things that Sunil did":
"... sitting with a fellow student in the stairwell to make sure she was okay; playing saxophone; writing and working patiently and meticulously; caring tenderly for those he loved; and taking time to be fully present with his wide smile with every single person with whom he interacted."
The family has created a fund in Sunil's name to benefit mental health and environmental sustainability organizations. Donations can be sent to the Sunil Tripathi Memorial Fund, c/o Brown University, 110 Elm Street, Box 1893, Providence, RI, 02912.
"Through this tumult, we are ever reminded of how fragile our world is and how much we all need one another -- how much it matters to take time out, to lend your hand, to show your love for one another," the family wrote in an email. "Sunny, we miss not being able to tell you all the funny stories of these past forty days turning Providence upside down looking for you. We miss your gentle soul. You are our missing piece."