This past Tuesday I was called upon to deliver some words about my colleague, Hui-Chuan (Jane) Cheng. The following are the final text of my words, which I promised some people I would make available.
Besides being a full professor in Computer Information Systems at Bloomfield College, Dr. Cheng also taught at the Chinese School in Livingston, NJ. Besides teaching Chinese heritage there, I have no doubt that she created their web site.
Jane’s death hit many of us hard. It is difficult to imagine…it has been difficult to cope…with her not being here anymore. I mean it is possible that a day could go by that we don’t discover that something that Jane always took care of didn’t happen. Hasn’t seemed to happen yet, but I suppose it could happen.
I will not grieve for Jane. I don’t believe she would have wanted us to do so. Grieving is not a part of buddhist culture. Grieving is a sign of attachment and attachment brings suffering. Buddhists believe that there is enough suffering in this world without us adding to it unnecessarily. Jane would not want us to suffer in her name.
But the Buddha also said upon learning of the deaths of two of his greatest disciples: “It’s as if the sun and the moon have left the sky.” From that quotation, we learn that, although the Buddha loved all beings everywhere, with no exclusion, he also had relationships that were special to him, and he felt their loss.
And we feel the loss of Jane Cheng.
Jane changed my life. When I came to New Jersey, I was a mathematician with a knack for teaching but no permanent position. I taught some classes in Computer Literacy here at Bloomfield College to help make ends meet. Jane asked me to apply for a tenure-track position which was open in CIS, a position which would require me to give up mathematics in favor of learning how to teach computer programming. For better or worse, I did so.
Life is change. Jane had faith in me. I have learned how to program in 5 programming languages…and how to teach what I have learned. This semester I am teaching three different programming classes in two different languages. In this way Jane was responsible for enriching my life…as she tried to enrich the lives of all who knew her.
I’d like to finish with some words arranged by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore:
Say not in grief that she is no more
but say in thankfulness that she was
A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
but the putting out of the lamp
because the dawn has come.