Miyaka Geh died last month. Wednesday night, under the first clear sky in days, over 100 friends gathered around the Reflecting Pool to remember a woman they said was remarkably beautiful, outgoing and kind.
Fifty candles floated in the reflecting pool, more burned in the hands of people. Some laughed, some cried and others leaned against their friends. Rhythm and blues played low in the background as they remembered the 20-year-old law and society major.
Geh made friends at UCSB from the day she moved into Francisco Torres her freshman year, junior law and society major Amy Doyle said.
“I had never felt lonelier than at that time. I left my door closed and she came and knocked on my door,” Doyle said. “She made me laugh and made me forget that I was alone. She was my first friend here. She made me laugh that day and she still makes me laugh. … She was the most beautiful person I’ve ever met.”
Brian Ralston, a junior linguistics major, lived with Geh this year in Isla Vista.
“She was like my little sister, always nagging me, but at the same time she was like an angel – she was always looking out for me and everyone else,” Ralston said. “She was the type of person who could meet someone and two minutes later they’d be best friends. … She was such a happy-go-lucky person. Sometimes, when it gets quiet, I can still hear her singing Michael Jackson.”
“How often do we get a chance to acknowledge that a chain has been broken in our lives?” said Erin Jones, a member of the on-campus group Akanke, which organized the evening. “A soul; it doesn’t matter how well we knew her or if we ever met her. The point is that a soul walked this earth, that another human being stepped where we have stepped.”
Geh, who had done well in her classes and planned to be a lawyer, withdrew from UCSB in November. Roommates said she suffered from depression. Geh returned for Winter Quarter, but stayed only six days before returning to her family’s home in Los Angeles.
Geh’s mother found her body on the morning of Feb. 12. The Los Angeles Police Dept. said the gunshot wound that killed her was apparently self inflicted. Friends and family gathered in L.A. for her funeral on Feb. 22.
William Lang, a junior global studies and French major, knew Geh since her freshman year in high school and lived with her in I.V. this year.
“The only thing that comforts me is I remember the first time I met Miyaka. I asked her, ‘That’s a really unusual name. What does it mean?’ … She told me her name means ‘thank you,’ ” Lang said. “When I think about it, millions of people around the world say ‘thank you’ every day. … Around the world, millions of people are saying my friend’s name.”
Junior biopsychology major Christine Apa said Geh saved her life when they lived in Francisco Torres freshman year.
“She got me through so many hard times. … At times, I would go to her room. Nobody would be around and she would cheer me up. There was a time I talked to her about how I was so depressed that I wanted to kill myself and she … she talked to me and she made me … it was just that one conversation I will always remember,” Apa said. “When I first found out, I was really angry – why did this happen? But now I’m sad for the people who will never get to know her and how much she cared about everyone. … She was there for me like she knew me from birth. I know I will always have the strength in me to go on because she talked to me. Even though the way she left was really hard, I will always remember that strong, strong woman who pulled me through. She saved my life.”
Mourners observed a minute of silence for Geh. People signed a book of condolences to be passed along to the Geh family. The crowd lingered and melted away for an hour after the last speech, while the candles in the reflecting pool flickered and went out.
Geh always reached out to others, said Joan Walker Scott, director of the Education Program for Culture Awareness.
“The greatest honor we can give Miyaka is to love each other,” Walker Scott said, “to take off the veils that keep us strangers.”
Chancellor Henry Yang had been traveling, but changed his flight to return to UCSB in time for the memorial.
“It is our responsibility now to help preserve the memory of Miyaka, to take what she did while she was among us on this campus and hold on to it as best we can,” Yang said. “We will keep Miyaka in our hearts and be grateful for the time we had with her. It was much too short.”