Sunday, August 15, 2010

I loved my friend

For several years, I've had this piece of art hanging in my home:

This is a Traditional Chinese representation of a verse of scripture from the Book of Mormon. My friend Jeanie Hsu made it for me.

I first met Jeanie when I traveled to Taiwan for my work in 2000. We worked together for a few weeks. Jeanie was a single woman not much older than me. She showed me around Taipei and helped me avoid making huge cultural blunders (or, more accurately, helped me recover when I did make them)! She was energetic, vivacious, and fun. I loved her.

At that time, she was taking a calligraphy class. I had been interested in calligraphy in my youth, and so I peppered her with questions. She explained the process of using brushes, ink, patience, and care to turn Chinese Han characters into beautiful art. She pointed out the red stamp in the corner, which is how each artist signs his or her work. The artist dates the work also, sometimes waiting to finish a piece until the date is one that would look especially beautiful written on the art.

A few months later when I was back in Utah, Jeanie surprised and delighted me by sending this piece of her calligraphy to me via a friend who was traveling from Taipei to Salt Lake City. Jeanie had written the scripture in Moroni 7:47 in her beautiful calligraphy. Here's the English translation of the scripture:
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
Since Jeanie was full of love, it was a fitting scripture for me to remember her by.

Jeanie loved people enough that she was willing to sacrifice and work for their growth. During the time I worked with her, she was a volunteer seminary teacher for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Every morning at 4:30, she'd drive around Taipei on her little scooter to pick up the teenagers who were students in her class. Each day, she'd teach a lesson she'd prepared about the gospel of Jesus Christ, about being good family members, about being good citizens, about loving others. After her daily class was done, she'd give her students a ride to school and then go to work herself.

A few years later, Jeanie visited me in Salt Lake City, and I loved seeing her again. She gave me another piece of art, a beautiful scroll that said "Sweet is the Work", and it was even more beautiful than the first. While she was in town, I tried to set her up on a blind date with one of my friends who speaks Mandarin, but unfortunately, their schedules didn't allow them to get together.

One evening a few weeks ago, I was working on the computer late at night, when another friend from Taiwan was online, and he instant messaged me the sad news that Jeanie passed away recently. I was shocked and saddened to learn that she had a cough, and so went to the doctor where she learned that she had lung cancer. She never smoked. She was still relatively young. She died three months later, after receiving grueling, unsuccessful treatment.

I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There's nothing more to say.
The poem ends
Soft as it began-
I loved my friend.
-Langston Hughes

I feel a great sense of loss at losing Jeanie. Her death reminds me just how fragile and temporary our lives are, and how important it is to spend our time doing those things that matter most.

At the same time, I also feel grateful that I had the opportunity to know Jeanie, and grateful for Jesus Christ, and His promise that we will one day be resurrected and live again with the people we love.

Thanks to Christ, I look forward with hope to the day when I can renew my friendship with Jeanie.


Lori said...

I am truly, so very sorry for your loss. My heart breaks for you...but my soul rejoices in the love for the Gospel that you shared. What joy to know that we will be reunited with our friends and families if we are true and faithful. You are an amazing example of charity and I value our friendship.

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Laurie said...

I am sorry to hear about your friend. I do know that you treasured those pieces, and I am glad that you can have them as a reminder of such a wonderful person.

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