$26,000 in 26 days for Microloans in Haiti - The fundraiser begins!

Darwin | friends, photography, social media, sports | Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

First, thank you all for your overwhelming support thus far with the creative ideas you guys have posted, and also for the congratulations about my new job. I’m now the new Online Communications Officer for the Grameen Foundation. Now the fun really begins. I committed to raise $26,000 in 26 days, and I was hoping the deadline would be my birthday Feb. 21. However, for my job I will need to fly to Washington D.C. for 2 weeks for training & orientation beginning on Monday Feb. 8. I don’t get back till the 19th, and I’d like to have more time to prepare for my photo show.

On your mark, get set, GO!

I’ve decided to have my fundraiser party on Feb 28, and to make that the deadline for raising $26,000. It’s also 26 days away from TODAY :). I have launched my fundraising page through the Grameen Foundation’s Ingenuity Fund. If you want to share the link, it’s probably easiest to use this URL: http://tinyurl.com/26k-for-haiti. Please visit this page and if you feel compelled, donate today.

To show my commitment, I have personally donated $2,600 to the cause. This was not easy. Being unemployed the last 8 months has been difficult, and this is pretty much all of my remaining savings. But, I feel compelled to do this as I would not ask my friends and family to donate to something I don’t truly believe in. If we reach the goal of $26,000, it will be over 10 times as much as I raised last year! I’ve been tempted to get discouraged, but I keep getting inspired by people like Billy who raised $15,000 in 16 days!

For me to raise $26K in 26 days, here’s my initial plan:

  • Use this blog/twitter/facebook to spread the word online
  • Write handwritten letters to close friends/relatives
  • Host multiple fundraiser dinners
  • Host a sponsored karaoke night (you sponsor your friend to sing a song of your choice)
  • Host a photography show event
  • Finish a triathlon including a 26K run and 26 mile bike ride on Feb 27.
  • Aim for these goals: $6K by 2/7, $12K by 2/14, $20K by 2/21 (my b-day), and $26K by 2/28!

Here’s how I need help:

  • Donate on my fundraising page. Contact me if your company matches, and I’ll add it to the total!
  • Spread the word via Facebook & Twitter. Share, Re-tweet and comment on my posts.
  • Host/organize a baked goods dessert night (26 types of dessert)
  • Organize a friendly eating competition - eat 26 types of sushi (Joe?)
  • Donating professional services (i.e. a Valentine’s photo shoot, web design, etc)
  • Donate lessons (dance, cooking, skiing/snowboarding)
  • Volunteering to help with the events above (esp. the photo show!)
  • Ask your friends if they’d be interested with helping with any of the above.
  • Other ideas of your own design!
  • Please fill out the form below if you’re interested in helping with any of the above.

I am still finalizing the details of the photo show, but I’m planning to have it on the evening of Sunday Feb. 28. I’m looking for a venue with a nice open space, a way to display photos (even if on easels) that serves food/drinks. I’d like to just allow people to come and buy food/drinks if they want. Maybe something with a private room or private area. 2 years ago it was at the Bal Mar in Ballard and that was pretty good, but I’m looking for any other suggestions/connections you might have.

There’s a lot of work to do starting today, but I’m glad I won’t be doing it alone! I’ll keep this blog updated as things progress.

photo credit to jon marshall.

My New Job: Technology + Microfinance To Fight Poverty

Darwin | faith, family, friends, social media | Friday, January 29th, 2010

If you’ve talked to me at all the last two years, you’ve probably wondered what I’ve been up to. In May of 2008, I supposedly left Microsoft to change the world, but that didn’t quite happen so easily. I started to work with a new non-profit called One Day’s Wages, but because of many factors (including the recession), the org’s launch was delayed and I never got to give it my full effort. (Luckily, ODW launched in late 2009, and it’s doing very well so far!) I returned to Microsoft on a contract in Nov. 2008, but was let go in June 2009 when my product was canceled. I spent the last few months doing some consulting and a few personal projects, but I was always looking for something more. Today I finally found it.

Today, I received a job offer from the Grameen Foundation. You might know the name from the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize won by Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank. The Grameeen Foundation is part of the same network of organizations,  and I will be working on their Marketing & Communications team, mostly on technology related efforts like the website and social media. I’ll be based out of the Grameen Technology Center in downtown Seattle. The paperwork should be finalized on Monday, and then everything will be official. I’ll wait until next week to share more details about the job and why I’m so excited! I was going to wait till then to announce this, but what the heck.

For now I just wanted to share this amazing news with people and thank the dozens of friends and family who have supported me in this process, not just in applying for this job, but the whole two years leading up to it. God definitely had something up his sleeve, but I had to completely trust Him instead of trying to do things on my own.

By now, you may be unsurprised that the charity I’m raising the $26,000 for is for Grameen Foundation’s Haiti Fund. They partner with a microfinance institute in Haiti called Fonkoze. Following the 2008 hurricane in Haiti, they were able to provide loans at 0% interest to over 14,000 women, and they’re providing similar services again in Haiti following the earthquake. So what does this foundation do, you ask? In a nutshell, the Grameen Foundation utilizes microfinance and technology to empower people to lift themselves out of poverty. Still don’t get it? If not, that’s good, because part of my job will be to clarify our messaging about our mission and our work ;).

Above: clients of Fonkoze who have received a loan for their family business.

The only complication to my current birthday fundraiser plans is that I’m scheduled to fly to their headquarters in Washington, DC for a few weeks in February, and may miss my own birthday in Seattle. I was planning on having my birthday fundraiser on my actual birthday (Feb. 21) but I may have to postpone it a few weeks. Still, I won’t let that stop me. That may give me a few more weeks to plan, raise money, and most importantly train for any physical challenge I’ll be putting myself through.

Thank you for your ideas and encouragements so far. Keep the ideas coming, and I’ll keep this blog up to date with more developments. Like I said, next week I’ll post more info about my NEW JOB! It feels just so good to say that :). At this point, I’m still trying to comprehend what’s actually going on. This non-profit has been on my short list of top organizations I’d love to work for ever since I heard of them. I’m so blessed to have found the job posting, applied, and been accepted for a position I think fits me almost perfectly. I’ll probably reflect more on this whole process in a later post, but for now it’s suffice to say this: God is good.

26 Days until I turn 26 - A bold challenge & request for YOUR help

admin | food, friends, photography, social media | Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

I’ve made it an annual tradition to make my birthday not about myself each year, but about a particular cause to raise money for. In response to the crisis in Haiti, I decided I want to do something BIG this year. In order to do so, I’m  going to need more help from my friends and blog readers (i.e. YOU) this time :). I’m not asking you for money right now, but for feedback and ideas to start with.

Last year I was able to raise over $2500 for Room To Read, and I thought this year I’d at least up it to $2600. Then a crazy idea popped into my head: What if I could raise $26,000? It sounds pretty radical to me still, but in response to the situation in Haiti, we’ve seen some amazing fundraiser ideas out there (like this 7 year-old), It won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible.

As far as the cause/non-profit to support, I’m choosing an organization that has a long history of working in Haiti, and provided a lot of help following the hurricane in 2008. It’s more focused on middle-term and long-term recovery and sustainability, which is a big reason why I’m choosing it. I’ve given to and will continue to support immediate needs and disaster recovery, but since the earthquakes effects will be felt for years, I want to support something with a longer term impact. I’ll share the name of the organization in the next few days. Sorry for the suspense, but I think a little mystery won’t hurt the campaign :).

Above is a photo from Haiti, courtesy of World Concern.

Anyway, in order to even raise $2600, much less $26,000, I’m going to need a plan. As I’ve done in years past, I’ll have a celebration on my actual birthday (Feb. 21) where I will sell framed photography of my own and from my friends. I’ll also have a campaign online raising money through Facebook, Twitter and other places.

In order to really hit this out of the park though, I think I’m going to have to have a series of events and even as friends to help with their own events potentially.

Some initial ideas, all with the common theme of the number 26:

  • Run 26K the morning of my birthday, potentially with 26 other people, who all pledge to raise money
  • Maybe add a 26K or 26 mile bike ride to that
  • My worst fear: swimming - maybe swimming 2600 meters, or feet, or… inches…
  • Writing a 26 line poem
  • Hosting a fishes+loaves event with 26 people (basically a dinner fundraiser)
  • Any kind of eating contest/food event with 26 people or 26 items. Can someone eat 26 goldfish/cheez-its and swallow in under 26 seconds? Record the hilarity and post it
  • Some sort of dance competition/performance? 26 dance moves?
  • Can we somehow mix karaoke into an event? 26 songs in a row
  • Writing handwritten notes to 26 personal friends/relatives about the cause and why I care. Also asking my close friends to do the same.

These are just things to help get the juices flowing. No idea is a bad idea. In fact, I know I’m going to need so many ideas, that I’ll issue a challenge: If I can get at least 26 people to give me ideas in the comments of this post and following posts, I will commit to raising $26,000, but not until then :). I’ll be following up this post with more details/progress in the next few days.

Also if you’d like to be more involved, whether you’re in Seattle or not, definitely contact me and we can talk more!

I have 26 days left. Time’s a tickin’, so post your ideas now, or share this post with a friend!

cupcake photo courtesy of wishymom.

Inital Reflections on the Idea Camp Pacific Northwest

admin | Reflections, faith, friends, social media | Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

What a weekend. I just returned from The Idea Camp in Portland, and to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect. The topic was “being present in the city” and overall I think I am still trying to process and digest all the things my senses were overloaded by.

Eugene Cho and Dan Merchant speaking on the cost of  implementing big ideas, with Charles Lee facilitating. 

Relationships. That was yet another common theme of the weekend. No amount of programs, ministries, ideas nor money can compare to a single genuine relationship between one human being and another. I’m not only talking about super deep committed relationships, but even those fleeting or intermittent interactions with people who happen to cross our path at specific instances in time. I ask myself: Am I truly “being present” in those moments? Am I just going through the motions, saying the same cliché phrases? Or, am I genuinely interacting from my heart? Do I truly see the person? That’s definitely one area I’d like to improve upon.

Action. That was another key theme for myself. One of my favorite quotes was “God can’t steer a parked car.” We may drive into the ditch once in awhile, we may take the wrong turn and go in the opposite direction for a time, but God will get us back on course. We just have to be in motion. I challenge myself to stop “waiting for a voice from above” and just do what I feel is right.

Trust. In order to have effective partnerships, we have to earn and develop trust between people and organizations. Perhaps it’s between a church and a city government, or a non-profit and a school district, or even just between two strangers who find that in this season of life they may not know anything about each other, yet in time they will desperately need each other. How do I gain people’s trust? What does it take to earn mine? Many times the answer is simply: Time.

I attended a breakout session on how to interact with local businesses, city government, schools and the local media. The case study of Beaverton, OR was quite fascinating.

My brain is still spinning from all the input over the past 48 hours, but these are my initial reflections from the weekend, with more to come in the upcoming days.

Death Star Icon Invades My Facebook Experience

admin | Star Wars | Monday, November 9th, 2009

Not only do I regularly get links/photos from friends sent to be via email/facebook about my obsession with Star Wars, but now Facebook is ’smart’ enough to even know what kinds of advertisements to show me:

Too bad I don’t want to enter my personal info to enter a contest. But that picture of the Death Star did catch my attention.

Note : Of course I know that Facebook mines my profile for data and tries to show me the most relevant ads, much like Gmail does. The computer logic behind this isn’t what is surprising to me. It totally makes sense. But, I still had a pretty surprised reaction to seeing a Death Star on my screen. Wouldn’t you?

Addendum to the note: I also believe that since the icon used is one of the second Death Star, it garnered additional attention. I mean, a normal Death Star is pretty cool, but the second Death Star was much larger, and was also still under construction. I would almost liken my surprise at seeing this icon on my screen to Admiral Ackbar’s surprise when he realized that the second Death Star was, in fact, operational during the Battle of Endor. Almost.

The Strength of a Fading Memory

admin | Oliver, family, friends | Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Our minds are interesting creations. Sometimes I can barely remember what I was doing 5 minutes beforehand, and yet I can distinctly remember crying like a fire hose as a 4 year old pre-schooler when my mom was a whole five minutes late to pick me up from school (she had gotten pulled over for speeding trying not to be late to pick me up, ironically) and all the other kids were already gone. What makes some memories so vivid, and some memories so transient?

I’m not going into any kind of psychological discourse here - I’ve read some stuff about how sensory perceptions (especially smell) can help create discrete memories that last. I just wanted to reflect on the last 3 years of my life - the time since my older brother Oliver passed away. Since then, I’ve graduated from college, moved to Seattle, gotten a “real job,” left the job, went back, gotten laid off last month (more about that in a future post), started dating an amazing girl last year, and so many other “life events” that he wasn’t around to witness.


I often talk about Oliver as a teacher - which he was to his high school science students, but he was also a great teacher to his friends and family.As his younger brother, perhaps I was under his tutelage longer than anyone else. When I was little, as many older siblings have the pleasure of, he took care of me, helped teach me and shaped my world. From preventing a little toddler from bumping my head on a table, to teaching me how to mow the lawn, to helping me understand Calculus in high school, he was always there.

I remember one of the last pieces  of advice he gave me was when I was choosing jobs during my last quarter of college. It was between Intuit, based in Mountain View, CA - just 20 minutes from Stanford, and Microsoft - up in the unknown land of Redmond, WA. I told him what I saw as the pros and cons of each, my hopes and fears about both companies, and then asked him: What should I do? As any good teacher knows, you don’t just answer a question with an answer, but you answer it with another question. Basically he told me this: What do you want to do? It’s your decision, I can’t make it for you. You have to follow your gut, trust your instincts. It’s your life, and you’re the one who will live with the consequences (both good and bad) of your decision. It’s a big decision, but it’s not that big. Making a decision doesn’t lock you in for life.

He gave me the freedom to choose. In other cases (like should I buy this new bike or not, or who should I draft first in fantasy football) he gave me concrete advice and a specific recommendation. In this case, I think he wanted me to realize that I was now old enough and mature enough to make my own decision. He was allowing me to grow up. Instead of allowing me to use his advice as crutch, he was empowering me to make my own decisions and trust myself. He believed in me, and he loved me. That was the greatest gift of all.Back to memories - Even though it’s been a long three years in some ways, Oliver still lives stong in my memory. Perhaps some of the periphery details are blurring - what color shirt was he wearing at our grandma’s birthday party - but the important details still stand out.

Just two days ago, I had a dream with him in it. I don’t recall exactly what was going on, but it was a pretty simple dream - we were just hanging out, seeing a movie together, driving around the flat concrete mass that is Houston. It was so normal, just everyday stuff. And that was the beauty of it. It helps me to realize that even though he’s gone, he’s still around. He’s with me everyday.


Instead of trying to chase the moving target of happiness as I am almost always trying to do. I want to sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy today. Celebrate today. My family. My friends. Oliver’s story of supposedly being completely healthy at age  25 (coincidentally my current age), and then being diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and eventually passing away at age 28 reminds me that life is indeed but an eyeblink. Am I enjoying it? Am I making a difference? I know Oliver did. I don’t want to stand still as the eyelid closes. But I also don’t want to be so busy with “stuff” that I forget about what’s most important. People.

Happy 31st Birthday, Oliver!

admin | Oliver, faith, family | Friday, May 1st, 2009

Somehow I’m only blogging on particular days like birthdays, but I am working on getting over my need for ‘perfection’ and simply writing less polished blog posts so I don’t feel like it will take too much time. For now though, I’ll just spend a few minutes to remember my brother’s 31st birthday. 

 I thought about what I might write here earlier this week, but nothing really special came up to me. You see, for awhile after Oliver passed away I didn’t necessarily want to remember him all that much, the pain was too raw.In no way has that pain diminished in the past 3 years, but somehow I’ve been able to live with it. I don’t want to see I’ve gotten used to it, because I haven’t really. If I were used to it, it would be as if I had forgotten him. I wouldn’t feel my heart wrenching with sorrow when I watch little boys in my Sunday school class - seeing an older brother protectively take his younger brother under his wing. Sometimes, yes I do feel jealous and robbed of a relationship. But in the end I am happy for those two little boys, and I’m happy that I had my first 22 years of my life with my older brother watching over me. So it’s a combination of sorrow/nostalgia/joyful tears that I feel every so often. 

  I talked to my sister last night and my mom this morning and we’re all a mindful of what day it is and it’s nice to be able to call each other and share our feelings, though it is still too infrequent (and usually my fault, admittedly). But still, we are an imperfect family striving to love each other the way God loves us.

olivers-family-ut-graduation.jpgThis is so embarassing, but I’m posting a photo from his college graduation anyway.

 Today, I’ll probably just donate to his memorial fund at MD Anderson Cancer Center,  buy a small cake and share it with some friends later today, and say a prayer thanking God for the 28 years Oliver had, and I believe that our relationship has grown even stronger in the 3 years since he’s left us, which is more than an adequate birthday present for anyone.

Besides, I felt Oliver’s prescence last night as I cheered on the Houston Rockets to win their first playoff series in 12 years. So if anyone wonders why I’m so fanatical about my team, part of the reason is because Oliver and I grew up watching the Rockets on TV and some of my fondest memories of us together was going to the arena to watch regular season, playoff and even NBA Finals games with him.  Now if we can just get past the Lakers :) . . .

How Facebook and Twitter Can Save the World: Raising money and awareness through Birthday Causes

admin | friends, photography, social media | Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

I turned 25 a little over a week ago. But this post won’t be my annual reflective birthday post. Perhaps later this week. I DO want to talk about my celebration, though, and how through the use of Facebook and Twitter, I was able to encourage my friends and family to collectively donate almost $2,500 to the non-profit Room to Read which builds schools, libraries and provides girls’ scholarships in developing nations like Nepal, Vietnam, India and South Africa. 

I had the idea to host a birthday photo fundraiser party at my house. I asked a few of my photographer friends to donate some prints to add to photo’s I’ve taken, and we sold them through a silent auction with 100% of the sales benefiting Room to Read. Additionally, I used the application Facebook Causes to create a Birthday Cause where I could invite my friends to donate. Currently, I’ve raised $987 offline and $1,430 through my Birthday Cause, so I’m up to $2,417 - just $83 shy of my goal of raising $2,500 for my 25th birthday. If you would like to contribute to the cause, simply visit my Birthday Cause and you can make a donation there :).


From 25th Birthday Photo Fundraiser

Whether or not I reach my exact goal, I am so thankful to my friends for supporting me through online donations, providing photos, helping set up/clean up the house, preparing food, decorating and much, much more! I could write a whole other post about how grateful I am for my community here in Seattle and my family and friends around the world. Back to how I raised the money though, I read a few blog posts by Beth Kanter and Amy Sample Ward about how they raised money for their birthdays, and I encourage you all to check them out and promote your own causes for your birthdays! The main strategies I used were:

  1. Link my Twitter updates to Facebook using the Twitter Facebook App
  2. Each day, try to get at least 5 people to donate
  3. Update my status at least twice a day, asking for TWO (or how many people I needed to reach my goal) to donate that day
  4. Update it more frequently on the 2 days before my birthday and on the actual day itself
  5. Change my profile photo to the non-profit’s logo (more of a gesture to just promote awareness)
  6. Explicitly state how much I had raised so far, and how much more I needed to reach my goal.


I could have done more through inviting people, sending them personal emails, but because of the photo fundraiser, I was able to email the guests (those who came, and those who didn’t, too) an update before the party, and also after the party. Mainly, it was through people seeing my status though. 

 In conclusion, I’m not really saying that Facebook and Twitter by themselves will save the world, but they are useful tools that can be used for more than telling people what you ate for lunch, or sharing news stories (though I enjoy those uses, too). All in all, I think the way we interact through social media is changing us in more ways than we realize: how we keep in touch, plan events, raise money, and even how we celebrate our birthdays.



Reflections on Obama’s Election as President

admin | Politics, Reflections, friends | Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I guess writing requires a certain amount of inspiration. But if I wasn’t inspired by the events of last night, I don’t know what would inspire me.

As I sat in my living room among friends, we watched the electoral vote count climb higher and higher until Obama hit 270 - actually earlier than we thought it would happen. And after watching McCain’s speech (which was very impressive I thought), we awaited hearing Obama’s victory speech. We began to hear explosions outside, and when we went out to our porch, we saw fireworks flying over Ballard. Cheers rang out down our street from people inside and outside their homes, and we joined in.


Banners on the streets of Chicago this morning. [Credit: silversprite]

My roommates went out to celebrate and told me later that the bar scene was pretty crazy and the streets of Capitol Hill were packed full of spontaneous celebrations. I was feeling pretty tired and had a quiet night of reflection. As excited as I am, I know this is simply the beginning of a time of change for our country. We have a lot to do, but I take hope in the fact that we finally have a President I can be proud to support as an adult.

You see, growing up in Texas I was pretty patriotic -it was somewhat indoctrinated into me as a Boy Scout. We all loved the first Bush, and W was a pretty good governor we thought. I swear he came to my school once. I remember “voting” in the 2000 election at Jersey Village High School and proudly cast my vote for George W. Bush. Though he won our school election in a landslide, we were all worried when the results were too close to call until weeks later. Thankfully, the “good guy” won.

My views only changed after moving to California and going to Stanford. I credit the atmosphere there and especially my freshman roommate Jon who was a huge liberal. We would have debates in our room about the Iraq war and where or not it was about WMDs or oil. I think I finally started singing a new tune when then evidence was released about no WMDs in Iraq.

Since then it’s been a gradual change from the Republican side to the Democrats. I voted absentee in Texas (from Stanford) for Kerry, but still didn’t know that much. The ensuing years allowed me to learn a little more about politics, but I imagine many of my peers and classmates would agree that it was 0nly when Obama began his campaign for President that I really took notice. I read part of his book Audacity of Hope and paid attention to the news more. This was the first year I watched all 3 Presidential debates. I suppose the economy’s sitution and my still somewhat unresolved employment status contributed to my interest.

Yesterday was the first time in a long time I’ve truly been proud to be an American. After dropping off my ballot at the polling center, I eagerly awaited the results. And as the night’s events unfolded, my eyes teared up, my heart swelled, and I had flashbacks of singing patriotic songs at Reed Elementary School in Houston.

I’m excited to see what impact his election will have in the US, but also around the world as people’s perceptions change. Maybe I won’t have to sew a Canadian flag on my backpack anymore. More than simply watch though, I think we all (especially young Americans) need to continue our involvement with the political system. It’s begun, and Obama will lead the country, but we will each contribute to our children’s future in our own unique ways.

2 Years Ago Today

admin | Oliver, faith, family | Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

It’s hard to believe that two years ago today my brother Oliver passed away at the age of 28. I had been home only a week after graduating college and going on a retreat. Yet I felt lucky to come home to the fragile and frail arms of my older brother Oliver. The arms that used to punish and hurt me as we fought growing up were thin and weak. I gave him a hug gingerly, not wanting to hurt him. I wish he could have been able to fly to California for my commencement like he was planning on before, but it was impossible because of his weakness.

Oliver and I on a bench in Mexico during a family Caribbean cruise, only weeks before his diagnosis. Apparently I was saying something pretty funny or pretty stupid since he’s laughing.

During the last week of his life I remember a few moments very vividly. On the Sunday after I got back there was a blockage in one of his fluid tubes, and he wasn’t able to get hydrated for a few minutes. All of a sudden, he fell unconscious and unresponsive. We kept trying to wake him up, but he wouldn’t wake up. My mom was freaking out, which scared me, since she had always been with him and knew what was normal and what wasn’t. I mean, we all knew that this could be it, and that it was his time very soon, but I guess once it gets to that moment you don’t want to let go. My aunt Edith was visiting us from the Philippines where she is a pastor there. She’s told me about performing miracles and healing people but I was very skeptical (Yeah, I know, you think I should believe my own aunt, but it was hard). She starts praying for him, calling on the power of Jesus Christ and yelling at Satan to get out. Weird noises and ululations spring from her mouth and later I understand that to be the language of tongues (which also weirded me out back then and admittedly a little now, too). Pretty soon after her intense prayer, we see that the hydration tube is dripping again and the blockage is unclogged. Moments afterward, Oliver wakes up. We are all relieved and so happy. Was it truly a miracle? A result of the prayer, or just an inevitable unclogging of the tube? I don’t have the absolute answer, but I believe in miracles. I believe I witnessed one.

We had gone to Galveston (I think) to go fishing, and I guess he was a little bored that night, or at least uninterested in taking silly photos.

The other memory I treasure from that week was the one night that my mom entrusted me to spend the night with Oliver in the living room. He was sleeping downstairs because it took so much energy to climb the stairs to his room. Mainly I just needed to help him to the bathroom in the middle of the night because he couldn’t get up or sit down by himself. It was such a weird feeling to be able to lift my brother (maybe 80 or 90 pounds at this point) with such ease when I remember him always towering over me and being bigger and stronger than me. I was humbled by the way he allowed me to take care of him, and now I connect it to reading Tuesdays with Morrie when the Morrie allowed himself to be completely pampered (because he had to) in his last weeks as well.

No words were really spoken that night, but it was one of my last nights with him alive, and I didn’t really know what to say anyway. It was what it was. Two brothers together, now the younger one supporting the older one. A role reversal where I did my best to repay him for paving the way for me, being an example and guiding me. He was always a solid rock I could count on, so I did the best I could to be there for him. Even for one night.

Oliver, Randy and I hanging out during Christmas break 2004.

I could write more, but I think I’ll save some tears for a time of quiet reflection later today. To all our family, friends, and Oliver’s friends: Thanks for being there for us, we love you dearly and will never forget the tremendous support you gave us throughout his illness and especially dating back to two years ago this week. I hope you can each take a moment today or this week to pause and reflect on Oliver’s life and death and how it has affected you, and still is today.

Before I end with an e-mail Oliver wrote to his whole high school (where he taught science class) about his diagnosis and treatment, I just want to write an open message to him.


Two years later there are still really no words I can use to express my gratefulness, gratitude and love I still have for my older brother. You were always the one I could count on, who would be there no matter how big or small the problem I had was. I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise when you became a teacher since you were always ’schooling’ me - whether in mario kart or about real life: school, girls, how to treat people. I still miss you every day, and perhaps the most today more than any other day of the year. Though you aren’t with us, you still speak to me daily through the example you set, the way you followed your heart has allowed me to follow mine. I love you.

Always your little brother,



I think the way Oliver would like to be remembered most vividly is not the weeks or months before his passing, but rather the way he fought so fervently against his cancer, especially in the beginning. If you read the rest of the entry, you can get a sense of his ‘voice.’


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