In Remembrance of Edline Chun
I am honored to speak today about my friend and trusted advisor, Edline Chun. I was asked to represent the volunteer aspects of Edline and all that she generously gave of herself to make our community a better place.
Edline was a multi-faceted person, we all know that, and yet I am discovering she was so much more than I knew. Her death was so wrong on so many levels. Today is our opportunity to take comfort in remembering her life, the many times we were each with her, and the grace, personal elegance and quiet strength she always wore.
I have known Edline for 14 years; she was a board member at the organization that I run, for 29 years. In my work I am fortunate to encounter many incredible people through the volunteers that support our work. Edline was different. She was different in an exceptional way. First of all, it is rare that a volunteer serves the same organization for that many years - but I believe that is indicative of the fact that when Edline was passionate about something, she gave her all to it and that passion and commitment never wavered.
Often times, volunteers attempt to inject their personal agenda into the leadership of an organization. Edline did not do that. She was there to serve the community - to bring her skills and expertise to support the greater good. Edline had served as interim director of our organization for nine months - so Edline had actually done my job. Early on in my tenure, when I was trying to turn around a struggling organization, her wisdom was priceless to me. She quickly became a teacher and mentor, guiding me gently in our work. That was Edline, this quiet grace. She did whatever it took to get the job done. She led by example, was an inspiration to us all, and made us all better people by knowing her.
Edline was an active part of the Rochester community, touching not only the lives of those of us who met her through these organizations and through her work, but also those who benefited as a result of her service. To better know Edline, I would like to introduce you to the groups that I am aware of her participation:
- ROCHESTER Special Interest Group for Women in Science and Technology, more than 30 years of participation.
- Literacy Volunteers of Rochester, 22 years of service.
- Sojourner House, 31 years of service.
- Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition, 35 years of participation.
- North East Area Development, 10 years of service.
- NeighborWorks Rochester - 31 years of total service.
The efforts that Edline devoted her time to reflected what she cared about - her craft as a technical writer; giving people the skills to improve their lot in life and better themselves through a hand up, not a hand out; and improving the city in general and neighborhoods in particular. I believe that these facets of Edline combined with her friends, students, and colleagues are what comprised Edline's "family." As most of you know, Edline didn't have any family locally or in the continental United States. One definition of family is this: "a group of people united by a certain conviction or a common affiliation; such as a fellowship, clan, or tribe. Edline's Hawaiian culture also has a word for "family" whether they are related by blood or chosen family. That word is "ohana." All of us here today, we were Edline's ohana. We were the relationships and connections that supported her world.
We all know that everyone will die sooner or later; that nobody is exempt. Yet, everyone I have talked to who knew Edline is struggling with her death, not only because there is now a void in our life that she once filled, but because of how she died. I wrote these thoughts in a Facebook post in order to begin to wrap my head and heart around her death -
[As I lay in bed last night, unable to sleep, it struck me that the reason this may be hitting me so hard emotionally is because of the way in which Edline died and the fact that her death was so extremely incongruent to the person she was. I know that too many of us have played a mini-movie through our heads over and over again, imagining what she went through. We will never know the exact details but we do know this: Her death was senseless; Edline was purposeful. Her death was random; Edline was intentional in all that she did. Her death was violent; Edline was caring and gentle. Her death was cold and heartless; Edline was warm, and full of love. Her death was ugly; Edline was beautiful inside and out. The people that did this took the life of one of the most giving people that I have had the honor to know.]
When we lose someone we love, it is hard to let go. Grief counselors will advise you to give in to the reality and "surrender" to the loss. To illustrate surrender in dying, philosopher and author Henri Nouwen used the story of a trapeze artist who told a secret: that the important person to watch is the one who catches the other, not the one who jumps from the trapeze into the arms of the catcher. "The catcher," said Nouwen, "is the real star; the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. The flyer must trust, with outstretched arms that his catcher will be there for him." There is a moment when attempting to understand Edline's death that we must leap, trusting the other side, whatever that means to each of us, that Edline has been "caught" and is being held safely.
For as the Buddha told his cousin Ananda, "the whole of the holy life is good friends." Our relationships - and our love - are ultimately what give depth and meaning to our lives. Knowing Edline was a gift, that gave depth and meaning to each of our lives. As we will do at NeighborWorks Rochester, every one of us here today, can honor her and assure that her legacy lives on through the good work that we do every day. A piece of Edline lives on in each of our hearts.
Since Edline's death several of us have called forth the same Zen Night Chant, which to me is a sign that Edline is putting forth a message into the universe that she wants all of us to hear. I will close with the message that I believe Edline wants us to take away:
"Life and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes and opportunity is lost.Each of us should strive to awaken.
Take heed, do not squander your life."
"Thank you": Kim Brumber, CEO, NeighborWorks Rochester.