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Remembering Yin Ling Chu

Editor's Note: Shelley Ann Morris is a member of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) and works at Volunteer Ottawa as a Recruitment and Referral Services Coordinator.

I first met Yin Ling (Lynn) in October of 1982 when we participated in a group of young blind and partially sighted teens, learning about clothes, colour coordination, make-up, hairstyles and poise--a kind of “finishing school” where we were shown what our sighted peers learn incidentally. We practiced techniques, listened to invited guests, munched snacks and grew more confident.

Soon Lynn and I became friends. We enjoyed numerous cups of tea at the kitchen table with her Mom, who listened while we giggled and cried over our teenage ups and downs. Her father was characterized by high-energy music, running shoes and enthusiastic conversation, while Yin Ling's younger brother, Huan Min, just put up with us. "Yak, yak, yak!" he would sigh, though I think secretly he enjoyed our banter.

For Yin Ling and I, shopping sprees were laughing sprees, as one of us would always do something “blind”, like walking into the wrong bathroom, having toilet paper trailing from a shoe, or asking for help from a store mannequin. As Lynn was diabetic and I have low blood sugar, we were always on the lookout for really good sugar-free treats. We would shop for hours, looking for that perfect outfit or the latest CD.

In the early 1990s, we discovered the magic of talking computers. Although we had to spend hours learning how to use them, they helped us to gain access to information that was previously only available in print. Eventually, we would learn to send emails.

In 1990, we became part of an aerobics group for blind and partially sighted people. We were also members of Ski Hawks, a group of skiers with vision impairments who met at Camp Fortune in Quebec on Wednesday evenings. As part of this group, we attended a national conference in Banff, Alberta, to ski at Sunshine Village.

Friends remember Lynn as being very bubbly and enjoying a good get-together over a meal in restaurants. Those who attended the W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind with her remember her enjoying school, working hard at all of her courses, and being a fun, lively travel companion on those long bus trips to and from Brantford, Ontario, where the school is located.

Lynn’s mother and I once took a bus trip to Toronto to see Yin Ling perform with Insight Theatre, a company of both blind and sighted actors. She enjoyed acting and showed quite a talent for it. We watched proudly as she sang and danced her way through the performance.

Lynn and I went through all of life's stages together. She was one of the first people to come to my place for dinner once I moved out on my own. There were sad times, such as the untimely passing of her brother in the late 90s, but also good times, like getting accepted into college or finding that perfect paid or volunteer job. I was so fortunate to have such a good friend with whom to share this.

Over the years, I noticed some subtle but worrisome changes with Lynn. Her vision deteriorated further and her hearing started to diminish. I also became increasingly concerned as she seemed to choke on food more frequently. I found myself having to repeat what I was saying to her, but simply attributed that to hearing loss.

Although Yin Ling moved to Victoria, British Columbia, in the late 90s, we still stayed in touch. In 2007, when I was in Victoria for a conference, we got together for lunch. At that time, I really started to notice that my friend's health was not as good as it had been. It would be on her return visit to Ottawa two years later that the reality of what was happening began to sink in.

Lynn had Wolfram syndrome, a genetic, neurodegenerative disease characterized by diabetes, optic atrophy and deafness--the same disease that had taken her brother in the late 1990s.

On Wednesday, August 24, 2011, Yin Ling passed away. Her good friend and companion of almost 13 years, Tony, writes: “Lynn passed away quickly and peacefully. She has gone to join her brother, Huan Min. I will always remember her for her joy, her humour, her love of life, and most of all her courage. Lynn achieved many things in her short time--swimming, skiing, running, two plays with Insight Theatre, to name but a few. She has enriched my life greatly and she will always be with me. To all of you who knew her, thank you for enriching her life."

I was greatly saddened by Yin Ling’s passing, but comforted to know that she passed away with Tony and guide dog Liza by her side. It is always sad when we lose someone, especially so young (Lynn was 44). While it is perfectly normal to feel a sense of grief and loss, we must remember the good times--when we laughed until we were helpless, when we ate until we thought we would burst, and when we found strength in each other's friendship during difficult times.

This is how we will remember our friend, Yin Ling Chu.

Note: Lynn Chu was an AEBC member who shared her experiences with diabetes, Insight Theatre and her guide dog in articles for the Canadian Blind Monitor. She also mentored new computer users.


I was introduced to Lynn by the folks at the CNIB when I was volunteering there. She was in need of someone to read to her material on the subjects she was studying. She was always so 'with it' and quick to comprehend the matter at hand. Unfortunately for her I had never studied Chemistry, therefore my inability to translate to her the information in the way she needed became a problem, I was very glad (but sad) when the CNIB were able to supply her with a reader with more pertinent knowledge. Meanwhile, though, we enjoyed a number of fun and happy luncheons at Carlingwood, and shopping trips, etc., etc. After she had moved to Victoria we kept in touch, especially at Christmas time, and when she made return trips to Ottawa to visit family and friends we would try to get together for lunch, - or maybe a cup of tea at the home of her parents.
I eventually moved with my husband to live in Mexico, and sadly was only able to stay in touch via emails. She was certainly a determined and courageous girl, young woman and woman. Full of living and enjoyment of life.
Now very much missed.