Members of the Keene State College community gathered to honor the life of Jacob Messersmith on Wednesday, Feb. 29.
Two campus pastors from the United Campus Ministry spoke during the candlelight vigil.
“Jake made a decision we will never understand,” Co-Campus Pastor Stacy Kullgren-Gershwin said. “And we can’t take that away.”
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Messersmith, a KSC theatre and dance major, was found dead on Mount Monadnock on Tuesday, Feb. 21 from a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Union Leader reported.
Kullgren-Gershwin told the 10 students present at the vigil to stand by friends, to ask questions, and to be supportive. “Choose life,” she said. “Be dedicated to loving because that’s what Jake would want for us.”
Choosing life was the theme of this vigil.
Kullgren-Gershwin said members of the play Rashomon, in which Jake had a role, would be getting on a bus Saturday, March 3 to attend Messersmith’s funeral. “By doing that, they are also choosing life,” Kullgren-Gershwin said.
The biggest question is why, Kullgren Gershwin said. “What could we have done? We can’t ever answer why?” She followed by asking what one could have done differently. “Probably nothing,” she said. “Everyone in here loved him, you stood beside him.”
Kullgren-Gershwin said each person did exactly what he or she needed to do during Messersmith’s life. “You stood by your friend.”
Tissues lined the chairs of the Mountain View Room while Co-Campus Pastor Jane Thickstun paused for a moment of silence to remember Messersmith’s life and “the meaning of this occasion.”
“We gather to grieve and celebrate the life of Messersmith,” Thickstun said. “We come together to remember him and let him go.”
Kullgren-Gershwin told audience members to turn to support people and not to be afraid to ask for help. “Turn to friends, share stories, and voice thoughts.” Faculty and staff are more than willing to listen to you, she added. “Choose life as an entire campus.”
Messersmith’s sister, Rachel, who is at KSC senior, said the vigil went well. Rachel said her bother was “outgoing, funny and always smiling.”
During the vigil there was a mix up on Jacob’s name. He was referred to as Jonathan twice. “The name mix up was kind of funny; I know Jake would have been laughing. He could have been playing a joke on us,” Rachel said.
Brooke Tuttle, a friend and former girlfriend, spoke fondly of Messersmith. “He lit up a room.”
Tuttle, a KSC junior, said the vigil served its purpose. “It was special for him.”
Rachel referred to Tuttle as more than a close friend. “You were part of our family,” Rachel said.
Campus Catholic Minister Marika Donders said the after-effect of the vigil is the most important. “Everyone is standing next to each other,” Donders said.
The mingling of students, faculty, and staff is a support barrier after services like the one held for Messersmith, Donders explained.
The campus pastors encouraged students at the vigil to speak up when in need of help or advice.
“Tell people they are valued and loved; it’s what we can do to honor Jake,” Thickstun said.
Jordan Cuddemi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.