Black suits filled the Paris-Yates Chapel yesterday as members of the Ole Miss family gathered to remember the 21 faculty, staff and students who died in the last year. A string quartet opened the memorial service, and Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs, spoke after a rendition of Mozart’s “Andante Cantabile.”
“It was a very honorable service,” senior Olivia Marino said. “It was really nice for the school to put it on and invite the families.”
While the atmosphere and music in the chapel were somber, LaBanc’s message rang of respect and hope as she asked members of the congregation to think of a specific memory they had with the deceased. “A moment in the Grove,” she suggested. “Or a lingering conversation after class – these seemingly insignificant moments are the reason for our existence.”
The mood in the chapel shifted from one of palpable grief to reverence and honor with her words. During the ceremonial laying of flowers, a friend or relative of each of the deceased stood in memory. A bell tolled for each lost life before postlude of the university’s alma mater concluded the ceremony.
Afterwards, attendees were invited to enjoy refreshments and reminisce. As students, faculty and family gathered, many expressed their appreciation for the university’s hospitality. Members of the Columns Society ushered the event and offered their support to university staff.
“It was very difficult to work because it’s always hard and very real when we come together to remember members of the family that have passed,” Logan Christian of the Columns Society said.
Thursday’s crowd represented generations of the Ole Miss family. Ceremonial flowers transferred from table to plate represented a community member gone but not forgotten. Ultimately, the memorial service reminded the community that the 21 students, faculty and staff members who have died in the last year are still members of the Ole Miss family.