“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 possibilities ahead.

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 U.S., 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