Sorry, we had about 6 months of downtime and a few more months of partial-functioning due to a server crash. But we should be mostly back in shape now. –DP
Sorry, we had about 6 months of downtime and a few more months of partial-functioning due to a server crash. But we should be mostly back in shape now. –DP
Bernie passed away on June 27, 2007 after a long battle with a rare autoimmune condition known as neuro-Behcet’s disease. This site was created to commemorate the one-year anniversary of his death. I hope the stories and pictures will bring you joyfully down memory lane, and that you will be able to remember and celebrate the energy, humility, and inspiration of Bernie. For those of you who didn’t know Bernie, I hope this site gives you a glimpse of who he was and what he meant to his loved ones.
I met Bernie in the fall of 1994, my freshman year at MIT. Right at our very first meeting, he tried to convince me to choose his major– course 15 (Management Science).
Bernie made fun of me for being in a sorority. Then he tried to sing our songs, with his own made-up words.
Bernie always stole stuffed animals from my room. When I demanded them back, he would always tell me they liked him more.
During the first summer I spent at MIT (1996), B and I would have these long, random conversations that would last until 5 in the morning. I never got bored.
I still remember how ecstatic he was when I first started going to KCF meetings and attending St. John’s.
Bernie received a charcoal gray (actually, lilac) Ford explorer for graduation. He really wanted a minivan.
During my years as an IVCF staff worker, Bernie would always pick me up from my meetings on campus. ALWAYS. Good friend? Or stalker…?
We had to “define the relationship” three times.
For our first real date, he took me to my then favorite Boston restaurant, Grill 23 & Bar. But I really wanted to go to McDonald’s ’cause I was craving a Big Mac.
He also took me rowing on the Charles. He couldn’t row us past the BU Bridge because of the crazy current.
He sent many flowers to my work place and scored big points with my coworkers.
Once I jokingly called Bernie a ball-hog. He didn’t speak to me for days.
Bernie was a huge Oakland A’s fan. I am a huge Yankees fan. He accused us of using them as their farm system. It was a big point of contention in our relationship. At least we both rooted for the SF 49ers. Thank goodness for them.
Bernie was diagnosed with Behcet’s disease in 2001, one year after we started dating. I decided then that I wanted to be the one to take care of him for the rest of his life.
People always commented on how B and I never fought. Well we did. I always did most of the yelling. Good times…
Our engagement took place at CCFC on October 10, 2003… at night. SO SCARY. (For those of you who don’t know, 10 is Bernie’s favorite number.)
Bernie planned more of our wedding than I did. I still have the Excel spreadsheets.
I started noticing B’s short-term memory loss, aphasia, and mood swings six months before our wedding. MRIs showed neurological involvement in Behcet’s.
Two weeks before our wedding, Bernie was hospitalized for an infection from a spinal tap. Our wedding caterer across the street from the hospital sent him chicken fingers and french fries so that he wouldn’t have to eat hospital food.
B was completely symptom-free on our wedding day, July 10, 2004.
After Pastor Soong-Chan pronounced us as husband and wife, he introduced us as “Mr. and Mrs. BONNIE Chang.” Hehehe.
On our honeymoon, we skipped lunch every day and had hawaiian shave ice instead.
Neither of us being Red Sox fans, we boycotted the 2004 World Series by playing games on his PS2.
Bernie wanted to name our first child Jehosephat, and call him Phat for short.
He also wanted five kids so that he could form his own basketball team. I guess that was better than if he was a huge fan of football.
Bernie’s first series of seizures happened during the Red Sox championship parade, near Mass General. It took the ambulance forever to get across the street.
We closed on our house on December 10, 2004. Again with the “10″…!
Bernie wanted to buy the biggest dining room table out there so that we could host many dinners in our new home.
Bernie was hospitalized on April 14, 2005 after falling at home.
Every time I visited B at the hospital, I made sure not to cry in front of him. I managed to keep that up until he lost consciousness.
Bernie bounced around MGH and Spaulding Rehab for over a year, and finally ended up at Youville Hospital, where he spent the last year of his life. Even after spending countless hours with B at these hospitals, today I still wish that I had spent more time caring for him.
Bernie died at 8:32pm on June 27, 2007… incidentally my birthday. I am trying to see this as Bernie’s gift to me – his way of releasing me. Still working on it…
Miss you B. Will love you always.
(photo courtesy of Jae Kim)
It seems odd that only a year has passed by since Bernie left us. It feels much longer, and the space he left, much larger. Jinhee and I still find it hard to think he’s really gone. Closure is lost on us: Jinhee was near-term with little Ice, so we couldn’t make it to Bernie’s memorial. And so sometimes we feel like he’s just over in Boston, and the next time we visit, we’ll laugh with him again.
But in reading the online memorial, my heart aches. He’s gone, and I can’t feel better by telling myself I’ll see him one day. Even though it’s true, and I will. But death isn’t just a doorway: it’s evidence of the ways things shouldn’t be. And one day, Death won’t be anymore. That day, however, is still a long way in coming.
Last year when we were asked to contribute to this online memorial, I found myself in the rare space where words failed me. How do I pack his life and all that he means to me in such a limited medium as words? I’m no artist, but songs and paintings would be better. Something with some heft and weight to do justice to an old friend. Or perhaps laughs and groans. Something earthier, emotive.
So I laugh hard when I see an old picture:
Bernie’s red-hot angry in this picture. We’re all vacationing in Orlando, and he’s trying to sleep. But in our juvenile ways, we start poking Bernie with a broom and then snapping a flash-photo in the darkness to capture his expression. The first two times went without incident. But on the third time, he jumped out of his couch and grabbed the broom. You can imagine the giggles.
And I’m puzzled when I see this picture:
I wonder why we loved snapping these ex-presidents of KCF/ACF pictures. Such vanity. But we loved it and did at every chance we met. I could fill up your inboxes with many such pictures.
And I smile when I think of him racing down the court, with black knee-high socks and industrial-strength googles held fast to his head with an elastic band, and getting off his lean-to shot at the buzzer that banks off the backboard and gives the MIT basketball team a needed win. The team stuffed him into a garbage can in joyous celebration. He won the game: and he had the right to talk trash. (And that joke is where the earthy groans should kick in.)
But when I realize that he’s gone, my eyes tear up and I miss a good friend. He was someone who loved Jesus, and wanted his entire life (work, finances, relationships, marriage, etc.) to all fall under His leadership. And his goofy laugh spoke of a large heart that cared deeply for the people around him. He had a way of welcoming and bringing people together, and then looked for ways to help them along. In that way, he was a pastor who had dribbling skills. But more than what he did or what he’s like, he was a caring friend and a wonderful partner in ministry.
That’s the stuff that’s particularly hard to put into words: there’s no real reason why we’d be friends. Sure, there’s similarities that gave the opportunity for our paths to cross, but in the end, we had a fun time together and then took risks to open up our lives to each other, and in it all, we became friends. And more than anything else about him, I miss him. A brother who called me, friend.
But he’s dribbling now, or singing karaoke, or wolfing down shaved ice. And I’m sure he’s waiting to welcome us again.
Missing you, brother.
bernie died a year ago. i almost can’t believe it still. he was a friend from college, a good friend, one of those friends you always mean to call because you REALLY want to stay in touch, but life just keeps getting in the way. he was one of those people who made a mark on you. whether it was for his peculiar tendencies, or for his great love of certain things in life, or for just being a guy from northern cal who declared to everyone he knew that he was doing #2 during the great earthquake in san francisco.
he was a friend who shook his head at me for my craziness and i did the same for his. he was the only guy i knew (at that point) who color coded his closet. who named all of his stuffed animals on his bed and gave them personalities. who challenged anyone to be as sappy as him. who made me sappy mixes to prove how sappy he truly was. who knew how to play bball and pretty much knew it. who always ALWAYS had his door open when you just wanted to hang… but everyone knew that bernie didn’t do all-nighters. who found Jesus in college, and never let Him go. who i once prayed for to know Jesus, but now pray that i would know Jesus as bernie knows Him…
he was a friend who died a year ago today. i think about his wife. i think about friends who were near and dear to him and feel like i have no right to feel any grief or pain. because really, i wasn’t around the last few years of his life… but i am so SO glad i knew him. i’m so glad that even for a few years, i called him a good, close friend. that i was close enough for him to make fun of me and vice versa… that eventually we were able to call each other brother and sister in Christ.
bernie, i’m filled with grief today knowing you haven’t been here to enjoy this earth. but at the same time, i am filled with joy knowing that you’re free to dance up in heaven, your nkotb and other late 90s dance moves, free of pain, doctors and hospitals, free of struggles, sins… free to rejoice in the presence of God. He knew when he created you that your time here on earth would be short. i just wish i had one more day with you to let you know how much you meant. but we’ll meet again, and till then, i’ll think of you often and i’ll think well of you. because really… you lived it bernie. you really did.
Just over a year ago, my friend Bernie passed away from a rare autoimmune condition. My heart still aches as I remember him.
He was a brash, young freshman when I was a sophomore and yet we ended up rooming together the following year. I still remember like it was yesterday when he came knocking on my door at 1 in the morning on the day of the following year’s dorm room lottery. To make a long story short, Bernie was distraught because of the way the rooming situation with his friends was unfolding for the following year. It looked like Bernie was going to be the odd man out and in need of a roommate. Without giving it much thought, I told Bernie that he could room with me if things didn’t work out rooming-wise with his friends. At that, Bernie’s spirit soared.
The following year, we literally and figuratively made beautiful music together. His Aiwa stereo system doubled as the Next House karaoke system, with friends coming at all hours to grab the mic. More importantly, it was also remarkable to see Bernie mature in faith and in character. The joy of the Lord WAS his strength and he had such a way of encouraging people wherever he went with his smile, laughter, and thoughtfulness.
Singing a duet in the halls of Next House (photo courtesy of Unhyi):
Serenading the masses with “Earth Angel” as part of a campus fundraiser:
It was pleasure to see Bernie take on greater roles of leadership and responsibility for others at MIT Korean Christian Fellowship and at CCFC. He had come such a long way from his brash ways as a freshman.
One of my earliest memories of Bernie is of him sharing at one of our Wednesday night KCF meetings. It was still early in the fall of his freshman year, and he had only recently started attending our weekly meetings. At this particular gathering, he asked to share a few words and to dedicate a song. What he had to share was that, because of the friendships with people in our community of faith, he wanted to become a better man–and that was the chorus line from the song he played for us.
Let me just say, Bernie, I am so proud of the man you became. And I am a better man for having had you share in my life.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a over a year since his death. It’s hard to know exactly what to write in remembering Bernie, as words often don’t give justice in capturing everything. Here are just bits and pieces of things that stood out as I thought about Bernie:
- the way he really looked out for me, lily, and joann as freshmen. From visiting our room to conversations about when to date (freshman – red light, sophomore – yellow light, junior – green light) to forming a small group just for us where we met in his dorm room and learned about things like how to have a quiet time (I think he may have even put aside bball to do this?, feeling like God was leading him to minister in this way)
- declaring some weekday night to be movie night in his room (I think we watched “Seven” once and possibly other disturbing movies)
- asking me to choreograph body worship for part of “Joyful, Joyful”, and watching him and other St John’s folks go crazy dancing as we practiced
- finding him cooking in the lounge of Next House – meat and potatoes, of course
- his big grin and being fun to be around
While exact details and memories are becoming fuzzy, the imprint and impact that Bernie has left is clear. I will always see him as an older brother who was intentional about looking out for us, showing care and concern for our spiritual growth and well being. I am thankful for his friendship during college, being an encouragement in my spiritual journey, and how he just contributed fun and happiness. I feel privileged to be just one of the many many people whose lives were influenced and touched by Bernie… thanks bernie. You are missed.
The last time I saw Bernie was a completely “random” occurrence – we ran into each other inside a parking garage. I was visiting Boston for a wedding in August 2004. As we left the wedding reception, we accidentally got out on the wrong level of the parking garage. Bernie happened to be just walking from his car on that same level, headed to another wedding reception within the same hotel. We snapped a quick picture together. I’m glad we did.
people say that a life worth living is one in which you’ve helped society progress or contributed to the betterment of mankind.
of all the differences that bernie chang made in everyone else’s life, he made a personal difference in my life, too. bernie was my small group leader at st. john’s on friday evenings and it was through his guidance that i came to truly accept God’s unconditional love. thank you, bernie.
Bernie had the gift of hospitality. He made people feel welcome at church, and in his home. While I was not in his inner circle of friends, I enjoyed the glow of the love of Christ in his life. One time, Bernie arranged for a big group of people from CCFC to get out of town and go for a bike ride — I don’t remember the name of the town; it was one of those quintessential little New England places, close to the sea… it was a perfect summer’s day, and it came at a time that I didn’t get out much. I remember getting ice cream and seafood with the group, and it was so tasty. I remember watching blue-green waves crest in the sea, and in distant translucent waves could be seen frolicking sea lions. I never thanked Bernie for that day. I think a lot of things he did were like that — like the financial seminars he led, sprinkled with humor particular to Bernie (who else would have used Britney Spears and the phrase “mo’ money” to describe the way the stock market worked?), his generous gifts to missionaries, the deprecating way he would do announcements at church. Last year, I listened to an old sermon tape from CCFC, and heard Bernie’s voice; he was cracking jokes, not minding being in front of everyone at all — he was a true leader in that he was willing to serve people either visibly or invisibly. Gosh, Bernie, I miss you!
Of course, we all missed Bernie the more than two years that he was sick, and he missed us, too. I remember one time Hanna Kim-Seda recounted how all Bernie wanted was a hug from Bonnie near the beginning of his hospitalization. Honestly, it doesn’t make sense to me how Bernie was taken away, why our prayers for his complete recovery were not answered the way we would have chosen. My prayer now is one of simple gratitude that we can go on trusting God whose ways are untraceable, that Bernie has entered into His glorious presence, and that his suffering is ended.
When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
- from Psalm 73:16-17a, 21-28, addressed to those who are pure in heart.
I also remember a verse written on a piece of paper on the wall in one of Bernie’s hospital rooms (which I believe is also for us):
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. – 1 Peter 5:10
I was always one of the younger bucks at CCFC. Everyone was older than me and further ahead in life than I was. Made me start thinking about if I would be able to step up like Bernie to serve and be the older bro to the younger bucks when I become one of the old guys. In that sense, I’ve modeled myself after him because I know what good it does to a young man to have an older guy take you under his wing. I’ll be forever grateful to Bernie for that. We had some great times! I’ll always miss Bernie’s utter disapproval when I would do something fancy on the basketball court. I knew he secretly approved deep down inside!