Eulogy for Stephanie Chiang
August 31, 2006
I have already cried a lot. Please forgive me if I don’t shed a single tear or have any moments, and forgive me if I do. Forgive me if I robotically and humbly stand before all of you and try with God’s blessing to express a couple of helpful words. If what I say causes you to smile knowingly, please laugh as this is a celebration.
I don’t know what to add really. During her lifetime, Steph always said her piece, AND THEN SOME.
For me and maybe for some of you, I think the one thing I will miss most about Steph will be her voice – her own way of saying things. Her voice was that dove and that hammer both at once; she used that gift of speaking to get everything done.
As some of you may know, Stephanie’s career with Tyco Healthcare was possibly going to take her to an assignment in China, which superficially seems like a good idea: the right ethnic background, the right food, they even have Starbucks, etc. But you know how she is a talker. Stephanie Chiang, do you know that in China a government body controls and regulates your speech? Seems to me that China might have been a little weird for Steph in the speech department.
I am Stephanie’s brother, Mark. I am her humble brother, and I don’t know that any of my words today are going to help, but I am going to try.
So really, where to begin? How about where not to start?
- I am not going to start by thanking everyone here, this august body of her friends, this solemn congregation of her loved ones, for attending today.
- I am not going to start by extolling the virtues – the wonderful, mystifying virtues – of my sister, Stephanie, or by giving you the personal anecdotes that she and I shared.
- I am not going to start by outlining the objectives for today’s services – to celebrate and to heal, or directing us in how I hope we remember Stephanie’s legacy.
- I am going to start with how I thought about Stephanie as I delicately selected each word for today’s tender and solemn eulogy, imagining her gently guiding my locution:
MARK! HURRY UP!
MARK! THIS STINKS, MAKE IT BETTER! AND HURRY UP!
(… and if that really did happen, this speech would already be over by now.)
See, you all knew her a little differently than me, each in your own way – and I have to say that the one part of this day to which I have been looking forward is hearing all about that from you. And if not today, then any other time is fine.
In fact, I ask of you today that as we must lay Stephanie to rest, attendant with sadness and solemnity, we stay focused … stay focused. Let’s celebrate Stephanie please.
Let me go on now by saying, on behalf of my family, the Chiang family, THANK YOU for being here today to comfort us – to support us and to minister to us. All of us, though saddened beyond catastrophe and devastation, thank you for the gesture of your presence and every other gesture you have extended.
I can’t tell how many people are here today. But on the part of Stephanie’s legacy and on the part of my dearest father and mother, Michael and Ann, and my dearest sister, Jennifer, I think everyone here will look back on this day and note how we communed with one another and how this day and the way that we all conducted ourselves became a noteworthy event unto itself. Though certainly modest, we can and will look back at what happens today – the love, the ministry, and the nurturing shared together – and ADD it to our fond memories of Stephanie, in which we will seek and find a measure of solace.
On behalf of my family and my extended family, I thank you for being here today AND for supporting Stephanie through her illness this year. Many people visited her in Houston and gave her more strength for her fight. IT MATTERED TO HER THAT YOU WERE THERE BY HER SIDE, including all of the phone calls from overseas and domestically, the letters, the e-mails, the well-wishes and the gifts. From all of that love, we observed how Stephanie channeled that energy into her mind and into her soul and drew tons of strength.
Stephanie probably would have wanted me to start talking about how awesome she was by now.
We, her family, thought Steph was beautiful, a thing of beauty, bursting with radiance, elegance and grace, and flooded with a magical life-force and a blizzard of FEARLESSNESS. She acknowledged the consequences but never feared them. Stephanie had a head full of confidence; she was poised and composed.
With her ankle twisted, her nose bloodied, and a 30-mile downhill drive ahead iced over with the weather, Stephanie demands the car keys. Steph said to me quote, “Mark, your driving sucks! I’m driving!” End quote.
Steph was virtuous and kind, a mountain of moral clarity and an ocean of generosity, tolerance and fairness. She was smart, and she knew that she was more often right than wrong.
As for sharing the house telephone when Stephanie and I were children, I think she said that she and I could share the phone so long as the other person was not on the phone already. So, she wasALWAYS on the phone, and I got the pony express.
If Stephanie and I were playing board games, she played fairly, … or JUST until I started winning. Then, she’d always have a telephone call or something. Stephanie Chiang was never a loser.
Stephanie was playful and tough, intelligent and clever, passionate and industrious. Stephanie had vision, and she always had a plan and was making more plans.
Who’s been to a Stephanie Chiang party before, right? Everything prepared just so: the music, the decorations, the drinks, and the MASSIVE guest lists, and everyone properly dressed please. And before the party ended, she’d already be planning the next one, without missing the moment. Heaven, watch out, here she comes!
Stephanie was so organized.
She was such a multi-tasker that her filofax was jealous of her!
Her handwriting was so straight, her laser printer envied her!
We also think Stephanie was a respected leader and professional, and an adored team-player and a tenacious competitor.
Manger this, Rookie-of-the-Year and President’s Club that. Champion this, team captain that. Big woman on campus this, clutch play-maker that. It goes on.
Stephanie was also spiritual in a classical sense, a cosmic blend of both faith and secularity. In the last many years, Stephanie attended church services regularly, and some would say that she had become even more spiritual. But we would posit, paradoxically, that that memory of her religiousness slightly diminishes how deeply spiritual she was, with all due respect to the Church, in that Stephanie’s profound understanding of humanity was established long ago.
Even as a young child, didn’t Stephanie always divine each of our hopes, dreams, and desires, our fears, our trust, and our love. This mystifies me. How did she have such a good grasp of all of us, and so quickly every time? How did she do that? We might all be – all 100, or 200, or 300 of us here – she might be BEST FRIENDS with each and all of us.
Lastly, Stephanie knew the word ‘love’ at its primary meaning – as a word of action, ‘love’ the verb more so than the ‘love’ the noun.
To be thoughtful and considerate of others
To anticipate, prepare for, and provide for the wants and needs of others
To care for and nurture others
To give oneself to others without prejudice and without conditions
To be generous and to forgive
To be fair and patient
She took these actions to embody the fundamental meaning of love.
Speaking now as her brother alone, Stephanie and I earned each other’s love. It didn’t come free. It didn’t always flow freely. But it – each last drop and crumb of her loving – was vastly rewarding and cherished by me.
For me, Stephanie saw herself as a mold or a cast, and we were all her substrate, to be fashioned and improved upon. She did so based on her profound love for everyone. In so many ways, Stephanie made me – FORGED ME – into who I am, the extent of which I will take with me everywhere I go.
Finally, from this vantage point, I want to take a moment now speak directly to my father and mother, Michael and Ann. I know that they have had concerns during this tumultuous week that somehow they didn’t do something right, that shockingly they are somehow responsible for Stephanie not defeating her illness, that perhaps there was more they could have or should have done. Let me say this, Mom and Dad: you did great. You did great. You did great in raising Stephanie into the beautiful child and woman that we all knew her as.
Please let me proceed to closing. Though we will continue to need each other’s support and ministry, I hope that our communion today and the fine sermon from Minister David have allowed us to pursue, at least for one afternoon, the other objectives for the day:
- 1. Celebrating the life of Stephanie Chiang
- 2. Promoting the Stephanie Chiang Memorial Fund
How can I summarize? Stephanie had a passion for life. She had her style for living, a very bright and ever-optimistic view towards the opportunities in life. Stephanie had a will to be entertained and to have us be entertained, too. Stephanie thrived in the joys of living and showed us the fun around every corner.
We are so grateful for the outpouring of interest in the legacy of Stephanie. Knowing Stephanie as we all do, we feel that because Stephanie was the kind of unique individual with such tremendous character, presence and love for those around her, a Memorial Fund really would be the right way to remember her year after year, with the special opportunity here to grow and expand the reach of the fund as we – all of her family, friends and loved ones today – share our memories of Stephanie and the energy she imparted upon us with our future friends and loved ones.
The mission of the Stephanie Chiang Memorial Fund would be to serve others in various communities that Stephanie loved; the proceeds raised from donors would be given to individuals and organizations with the same passion for life, of which Stephanie possessed so much. For instance, the funds could be used to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphona Society; or provided to a local medical institution in California, Texas, Colorado or elsewhere; or donated to other causes such as providing sporting equipment for youths.
We need your ideas here. PLEASE, PLEASE tell us what you think Stephanie would have wanted. Every time you think of her, please make a positive out of it, turn it into an idea for Stephanie’s Fund, write it down, and share that idea with those involved with her Fund.
Indeed, we would seek to form a rotating Action Committee of a few of you to help us in planning ideas for the fund, and commensurate with that, setting the annual fund-raising targets and guiding the practices of how Stephanie’s Fund would seek donations. Everyone’s help in various capacities – whether that’s writing or editing a periodic newsletter or making follow-up calls to donor prospects – would be greatly appreciated.
In so many ways, I would like all of you to adopt Stephanie’s Fund to give it the breadth and sophistication that Stephanie would have expected. Please help us with your time and ideas. Again, we thank you for everything that everyone has done to be so supportive and helpful to us.
Now, I would like to introduce Jony and Wai Kan, my uncle and aunt. God Bless you all.