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.
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.