Standing Room Only

There was laughter. There were show tunes. There were jokes. There were stories.  There was a bagpiper. There even was a 7th inning stretch during which the audience of over 400 was asked to sing, “Take me Out to the Ballgame.”

And there were tears.

Bill addressing the ladies Burns' Supper 2008
Bill addressing the ladies Burns’ Supper 2008

I thought I knew Bill Chin. I’d seen him many times at Alison and David’s  home. I knew him as a loving father who was active at the local elementary school when his kids were young. I’d heard stories about near mishaps and half-thought through ideas that always turned out fine, but caused a little light anxiety at first. I knew Bill as a listener and a questioner. I knew Bill as a physically strong man who could effortlessly lift his 18 year old daughter, Jessie, over his shoulder and carry her up stairs to watch videos with Laura. I knew Bill as Robin’s husband. As Lucy and Jessie’s father. As David and Alison’s friend. I more recently knew Bill as a dance instructor — his contribution to this year’s Burns’ Supper.

Last night as I stood in the aisle of the packed Imagination Stage auditorium I discovered that I didn’t know Bill Chin at all. I learned he was a St. Louis Cardinals fan. I learned that he was still active at Jessie’s school (also my son’s school). I learned that he was always helping people in need. I learned that he rarely took no for an answer. I learned that he grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. I learned that his parents owned a mom-and-pop store. I learned he was a twin. I learned he had 4 siblings. I learned that Bill packed an awful lot of living into his 52 years on Earth. I learned he was “larger than life”.

I talked to other people last night who said the same — they knew some things about Bill, but not everything. I regret that I was not more of a listener and questioner and had listened and asked Bill questions on the occasions we were together.

Last night it was obvious that Bill was loved by many — not just his family and friends, but by an entire community. A community that he was a huge part of. A community that I live in, but seclude myself from for reasons even I don’t understand.

Bill’s brother asked us, last night, to think about the words in the song from Wicked that was sung earlier in the service:

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good

There is nothing at all good about Bill Chin’s death. Nothing. But maybe I can make some changes in my life to make his death meaningful in a good way. Maybe I can be changed for the better because I knew Bill.

5 thoughts on “Standing Room Only

  1. My dear! I did not know him, but I wish I had after reading your piece. Long time no see. I’m still working fulltime; any free time on the weekend?
    By the way, have you ever heard of ‘geocaching’? It involves using those geo apps like you have on you iphone (android?).


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