07 Jun Happy Birthday, Hanju!
In 2009, at the age of 49, one of Daniel’s closest friends, Bruce Kennedy, died suddenly. Bruce and Daniel had met when they both were in graduate school at Harvard, in the early 90’s, and Bruce had become one of Daniel’s most trusted and loyal friends. His death hit us hard, especially Daniel, who thought of Bruce as a brother. When we heard of his death, we flew back to Cambridge. At his funeral, Bruce’s family invited friends to speak. One after another, people lined up to say wonderful things about Bruce. The speakers ran the gamut from childhood friends that had known Bruce for decades, to one man who had met Bruce very recently and had been immediately struck by Bruce’s openness and warmth. I learned a lot of new things about Bruce, a person I had known for almost 20 years, from all the heartwarming things people had to say about him. I remember thinking how I wished we had had a chance to say these things to Bruce when he was alive.
This past weekend, our friend Hanju Lee had his 50th birthday party. I call Hanju “The Mayor,” because he seems to know everyone, and because everyone seems to know him. Full of laughter and music, but also, serious and deep, Hanju is the life of every party.
When Daniel and I launched the Dragon Kim Foundation weeks after losing Dragon, I found myself needing a website for the Foundation. I was overwhelmed with our loss, and the Foundation gave me a place to put my energy – to put all the energy that used to go to raising our son. But there was a lot to do and not a lot of people to do it. Hanju runs a company – BOS Media Group – that builds websites. He simply came up to me one day and asked if he could help in any way. Such as building us a website.
And that is how it has been with Hanju. He just sees a need and steps in there to fill it. So now we have this beautiful website that everyone tells me is super easy to navigate, and functional, and gorgeous. He and his team have been an extension of the Foundation and a place I’ve gone to for marketing assistance and advice, and company. Running our Foundation is not just a lot of work, it requires a community of people that believe in us and what we are trying to do. Hanju serves as a marketing expert, graphics department, IT department, a Fellowship Program mentor, and a trusted friend. For his 50th birthday, instead of letting his friends shower him with gifts, he requested that people donate to the Dragon Kim Foundation. Again, he doesn’t ask for credit for any of this. He just wants to make an impact. He believes in our mission to enable kids to find and explore their passions, and he wants to help.
They say that when someone is in mourning, instead of asking, “How can I help?”, one should just show up and find something to do. There is always something to do. And an important note: we didn’t know Hanju before we lost Dragon. But through Newsong, Hanju got to know us, and then, Hanju just showed up. And Hanju keeps showing up, showering us with his love and support. And his wife Maria, and their kids, Kara and Isaac, are all the same way. When I couldn’t bring myself to get into the holiday spirit that first Christmas, I called Maria for help. Maria came with the whole family, and they decked our halls and brought love and cheer to a cheerless home.
At Hanju’s birthday party this past weekend, which turned into a great dance party where Hanju and Maria and the rest of us GOT DOWN, we had a chance in the middle of it to celebrate and affirm Hanju. Apparently, Hanju, a dedicated golfer, had been dreaming of this moment since he watched Justin Leonard’s 1997 speech at the British Open, when Leonard took the mike to thank his loved ones. Hanju wanted some time with close friends, his family, and a microphone, where he could state unequivocally in front of the world how much he values these special people in his life. “And turning 50”, he continued, “I think gives me the right to speak!” I loved hearing Hanju tell us about his thoughts on life. And I loved that after he spoke, Maria opened the floor to his friends, so that we could tell Hanju how much we appreciate him. It reminded me of the feeling I got in 2010, when I wished we had taken the time when Bruce was here to tell him what a wonderful person he is and how much he’s touched each and every one of us.
I didn’t get to speak that night, at Hanju’s party, but if I had, I would have told Hanju how thankful we are for him. Here’s what I would have said:
Hanju, when you measure what really counts in life – your wife, your kids, how your family and friends treasure you and find life better because you are in it, the amount of laughter and music you share, the amount of love in your life, the impact that you have had – you are the richest person I know.