“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
For most people, this question draws one’s gaze to the
future. It suggests that their lives are just beginning, with countless
For me, it’s also about reflecting on a life at its
closing, because I once spoke this very question in a eulogy.
It was a eulogy for a five-year-old orphan who had almost
become my little sister. Her name was Chun Yu.
I met Chun Yu at a foster home for blind children in
China. She had been abandoned as an infant and neglected for years at a state
institution before moving to the loving environment of the foster home. She was
blind and developmentally delayed.
I fell in love with her immediately. She was beautiful, perfect.
Her gentle smile lit up my day. She loved music, and would lean back and close
her eyes to the simple melodies on toy keyboards. My family began thinking
about adopting her.
But just a month after we met, we discovered she had a
brain tumor four inches across. We tried our best to secure top quality care,
and prayed desperately for her to live after her surgery. After eight months in
a coma, she passed away. We felt the loss as if one of our family had died. We
buried her ashes close to our home in the US, because she had indeed become one
of our family.
Chun Yu’s life is embedded deep in my heart, in pain as
well as hope. In the months after her death, I realized that she and millions
of other children like her have the power to change the world, because they
have the power to change our hearts. It is my mission to tell their stories, to
make their beauty and their worth known, and to testify that love is stronger
than death and indifference. I want to challenge others to examine their lives
while there is still time to look to the future, and to choose to love others
before any accomplishment or striving.
— Ann Chao
Each year we ask our classmates a straightforward, simple question taken from the lines of a poem by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Mary Oliver.
We share with you intimate and candid responses to this question, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
Concept and photography:
Tony Deifell, MBA '02
More Portrait Project