Duke University Memorial Service

Sunday January 28, 2001

In the lobby, there will be a book for attendees to sign and a basket of white carnations. In the sanctuary, Candy’s ashes will be on a table to the right surrounded by 100 candles; on a table to the left will be a photograph of Candy and a candelabra with three candles.

Prayer service by Geshe Gelek Chodack

The Venerable Geshe Gelek Chodak, a Tibetan Buddhist monk from Sera Je Monastery in Southern India, will initiate a prayer service for Candy Wei in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He is the resident teacher at the Kadampa Center in Raleigh. (introduction by Ben White)


Geshe-la will place a white silk scarf in front of the photograph of Candy, followed by her mother and the other Buddhists.

The Mantra of the White-Robed Great Being

Chanted by Jing Wang and Laura Tran in Chinese.

Read in unison in English translation by the assembled guests.

Homage to the Great Compassionate Avalokitesvara, Mahasattva,
who, with expansive numinous power, saves all beings from
suffering and distress.

Homage to the Buddha
Homage to the Dharma
Homage to the Sangha
Homage to Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, who saves all beings from
suffering and distress.

tad yatha om kara vattra kara vattra kaha vattra raka vattra raka
vattra sabaha.

Heaven envelops the spirit; Earth envelops the spirit.
May all beings be free from suffering.
May suffering leave the body.
May all calamity and misfortune turn to dust.
This is the Great Perfection of Wisdom.

Bruce Lawrence

Bruce Lawrence (Episcopal Minister) to officiate the remainder of the service.

Jing Wang

Dear Friends: I want to pay my tribute to Candy by starting with a recollection I had of what she said during our last trip in Japan this past Christmas. The episode I want to recall took place on December 28, exactly a month ago. We were riding on a tour bus through Kobe, a city a few hours from Kyoto. That afternoon, we saw a bridge by the sea, a park, a tower, and we rode through many tunnels. At the end of the day, I turned to Candy and asked her which scenic spot she liked the most. She said, “the tunnel.” It was a very long and dark tunnel that she liked . This flashback didn t come back to me until three days ago when I was looking for the physical image of a tunnel. As some of you may know, the tunnel – an image for the Bardo of becoming – is the most important part of the phowa – the Tibetan Buddhist ritual for the dead – I have been performing for Candy every day since her death on January 16. I visualize in this ritual a tunnel radiating with pure bright light. I visualize that Candy is walking into this tunnel of light, walking through it feeling loved, safe, and warm. I visualize: as she is walking down this long, radiating tunnel, the light is getting brighter and brighter, stronger and stronger, and warmer and warmer until she plunges into the light, merges into it, becomes one with it, and is reborn. It brought me comfort to remember the feelings that Candy and I shared as we were riding through the Kobe tunnel that afternoon – we felt a sense of wonder and tranquility. Candy is traveling again. This time, alone, but not through a dark tunnel. She is walking through a tunnel radiating with bright light. She is walking toward another cycle of rebirth and reincarnation.

I flew to Ann Arbor feeling devastated and hurt, hurt not as much by her decision as by my memories of her. She was so talented, so determined, so independent, so beautiful, and fragile. While I was there, a news reporter at the Michigan Daily interviewed me. But in the published article, she censored the most important part of our conversation – my understanding of the choice Candy made. Suicide is a taboo in all societies. We are so afraid of talking about it that we would rather pity than try to understand the mind of those who chose this path. Candy went in pain, but not in panic. She had struggled with psychosis and understood that it was a chronic condition that could only be controlled by medication. She made a decision about what she wanted as an artist. Her decision was to have all or nothing. She accepted no constraints on her ability to create art and other beautiful things. She decided not to live a life dependent on medication because she felt that the drugs had dulled her senses and subdued her creative urge. She had also decided not to accept the other option – that is, to live the rest of her life in fear, not knowing when the next relapse would occur, if she chose to quit medicine.

I went to Ann Arbor, grief-ridden. But I came back with a full understanding of the importance of agency and autonomy for Candy. She could not bear to be controlled by medicine and by a disease that cannot be cured. She wanted to live a full life free of all constraints. And if that was impossible, she chose to end this life, while unconsciously knowing that she is beginning another.

I can dwell on this abstract notion of rebirth & reincarnation to no end. But I am not lecturing today. I just want to say that Tibetan Buddhism meant a lot to Candy, especially in the last few months of her life when she was searching for her spiritual roots. Buddhism was not just a religion to her, or an idea. She turned it into images without knowing consciously what she was trying to say. I came back to our house last Sunday. I walked into her room carrying her belongings I took back from Ann Arbor, missing her very much and hurting. But almost instantly, I stumbled into more than three dozens of her art work that celebrated the joy of sperm dancing on the eggs and dancing with the eggs. I was in joy and in disbelief when I found those precious drawings/paintings because they showed me a Candy celebrating the joy of birth and rebirth. She had been painting those images consistently and with increasing intensity throughout last year before the relapse hit her in the fall. And even after the relapse, she continued to scribble those images in her notebooks. The later images were sloppier, but the motif of birth continued to dominate. Those drawings make up a large part of her exhibition today. Throughout last year, she had attained a heightened unconsciousness of the state of being and becoming that she is in right now – her long passage toward light and rebirth.

Candy lives on in the images she created and in our memories of her. To commemorate her, we set up a scholarship endowment fund in her name in the School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan.

It is an international travel fellowship for art students, something that Candy had always dreamed of doing. I am also planning to edit a memorial volume of Candy s work that includes all aspects of her visual art and digital art, and her poetry and short stories. My friends and Candy s friends: I would like to ask all of you to commemorate Candy by doing one kind, good deed in her memory, thinking of her when you are doing the deed. Candy will blossom each time when we open our hearts to generous thoughts and deeds.

I want to thank all my Durham & Chapel Hill friends for giving me love, food, flowers, and support during this difficult time. And thank you for understanding why I am in seclusion. I am saving all my time for Candy, guarding her incarnational door with rituals. The rituals will go on like a marathon until March 6 when I finish the 49 days of the phowa. I am also deeply deeply grateful to my friends Ben White, Leo Ching, Bruce Lawrence, and Eric Zakim for pulling together this memorial and exhibition, and to miriam cooke for organizing the weekly prayer session on Tuesdays at my department to help Candy walk through the tunnel of light. And I thank Geshe-la from the Raleigh Kadampa Center for chanting the prayers.

I want to end my tribute with an excerpt from Candy’s email to her cousin early last fall. I want you to hear her voice and get a glimpse of her mind:
“What do I think about? Brand new things. I want to gather experiences… I want to do as much as possible. Passivity is a quality in people that I despise the most. Last year, I developed a tuff grrl complex. A tuff grrll is a girl that destroys all female stereotypes… A tuff grrl is strong, active, independent, and most of all, she isn t afraid of change. Without change, there will be no progression just stagnation.”

There is nothing more horrible for Candy than stagnation. And so I imagine — her spirit is marveling at the change and experience she is going through right now. She didn t leave me any notes. She knew that I would figure out, through those joyful images of sperm and eggs that her journey has just begun.

Miriam Cooke

I would like to thank Jing for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today. I shall begin with the Immaculate Radiance of Longchenpa, the fourteenth century Dzogchen master:

“Now all the connections in this life between us are ending,
I am an aimless beggar who is going to die as he likes,
Do not feel sad for me, but go on praying always,
These words are my heart talking, talking to help you;
Think of them as a cloud of lotus-blossoms, and you in your devotion as
bees plunging into them to suck from them their transcendent joy.
Through the great good of these words
May the beings of all the realms of samsara,
In the ground of primordial perfection, attain Nirvana.”

I’ve known Candy for most of her life yet I now realize that I did not know her at all. She was the quiet little girl struggling to swim across the Duke pool from one parent’s outstretched arms to the other’s. She was Jing’s silent shadow with a little smile of recognition whenever she felt herself included in what was being said. She was the intense artist pulling me into her bedroom to look at her most recent paintings, waiting for a reaction: “So, what do you see?” I was not quite sure what she wanted me to see, and so I looked and looked to see what was behind the surface of seeing. I thought I saw pain and darkness, but also always light. And it is only now that I know that Candy was talking through her paintings. She was preparing for the journey on which she is now embarked. It is only that I realize how deeply Candy’s silence, detachment and passion affected me. Her unimaginably courageous decision to confront fear and suffering and to embrace death have turned me, us all, in on ourselves. Candy in her last act was giving us the opportunity to look at life, our lives, directly to make sure that we seek real meaning in the precious gift we have been given.

I shall close with the words of Sogyal Rinpoche: “Pray you will survive and discover the richest possible meaning to the new life you now find yourself in. Be vulnerable and receptive, be courageous, and be patient. Above all, look into your life to find ways of sharing your love more deeply with others now.”

Katharine Baker

When trying to describe Candy, I keep returning to the idea of vision. Of course this has something to do with artistic vision: Her art and her writing revealed her unique view of the world and forced us to reconsider our own ways of looking at it. But to describe Candy solely as an artist is to miss something important. Her art was merely a part of a larger project, to look at the world, at society and at people carefully and intently. She had an unmatched desire to know and understand other people, who she saw not as means to an end but as ends in themselves.

If Candy was constantly looking, then, it’s natural to ask what she was looking for. My first response is to say she was looking for the truth, but I don’t think that’s quite right. She was too interested in complexity, in multiple layers of meaning and in mystery, to seek a monolithic Truth. Rather, I think she sought what is genuine. You can see this in her art, which at times plays calculated games with the viewer and at other times is disarmingly direct. Much of her work was concerned with what, if anything, authentic lay beneath artistic and social convention. But although she was willing to explore and exploit illusion in her art, in her personal life nothing but the authentic would do. She has an almost careless willingness to show love and friendship, and an equal talent for seeing what was of genuine value in people.

It’s going to be hard not to have Candy to point out the things I miss, to laugh at the absurdities of everyday life, to show me what darkness may lie behind a placid facade and what beauty can be unearthed in the mundane. But her memory challenges me to live my life in a way she’d be pleased to see, to live genuinely.

Bruce Lawrence

“Grief is the garden of compassion”. The words come from a 13th century Muslim mystic. They come from Rumi, the famous mystic poet of Konya, and I, who am credited with skills in Persian and a lifetime of scholarship on Islamic mysticism, might be expected to remember Rumi today, a day when all of us are brought here to this place by a shared grief, grief over the sudden, unexpected death of Candy. Like all of you, I have thought a lot about Candy in the period since we learned of her death. miriam and I have taken to the practice of beginning each morning, before any food or even the first drop of coffee crosses our lips, with a concentrated focus on Candy. To help us we have been reading from Sogyal Rinpoche’s The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and it is from that book, not my own background or immersion in Persian literature, that I learned the phrase: “Grief is the garden of compassion.”

Grief is the garden of compassion, as the Tibetan master noted quoting Rumi, because:
“If you keep your heart open through everything, your
pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s
search for love and wisdom.”(p. 316)

And so it has been for us during the past 10 days, as we try to come to terms with the immense loss of Candy from our lives in this karmic cycle. She was a gentle, silent, beckoning presence. We all felt her even more than we heard her, and we still hear her, for her legacy lingers, in her smile, in her gestures, in her art. Her own brief life, and now her sudden departure, was a lesson in love. It is impossible not to grieve, but it is also crucial to remember that grief is not the end of Candy but the way to something else beyond Candy. Candy has left us with a void but she has also left us with a hope: she has asked us through death as she did through life, to remember how pivotal and fragile are our connections with one another. We need to reach out, we need to touch even when we are touching a stranger or doing an act of compassion beyond the scope of our imagination.

It is far easier to grieve than to give, but at the heart of our grief is the impulse to reach out, to touch, and to give, and we do it today in the name of Candy. May our grief at her loss be transformed not only through the compassion we feel for others but also the acts of compassion we perform for others because of her.

Ben White

Candy was a truly interesting person. Though quiet and soft-spoken, she attracted attention in spite of efforts not to. She was always genuine and polite. Candy sometimes used photography to record a concept and an event. Passers-by always enjoyed what was going on, not being sure what was going on, but if she was photographing someone holding up a photograph of a face in front of her face, it definitely broke up the routine on the streets and on the beach.

In Ann Arbor at the remembrance at the Student Union, one of the students talked about meeting her one day with mutual friends and casually mentioning that his birthday was coming up. On his birthday, to his surprise, she gave him a birthday card she had made for him. He said he had close friends for years and no one had ever given him a card, yet Candy did. It really touched him.

Someone else talked about how Candy gave everyone a chance. Candy listened to people without pre-judging, getting to know them on their own terms. Someone talked about how you could disagree with Candy and she would not hold it against you. An instructor talked about how Candy inspired her. Others talked about how Candy consoled them, worked with them, helped them in crisis and on an on-going basis.

There was a natural poise and soft manner about Candy. She never seemed to be in a hurry, or to ever be behind. She was both organized and casual. Everything seemed to be current though she always had lots of projects going on.

One night at a dinner party with about ten people around the table, Candy dropped an ear on corn on the edge of her plate and the tablecloth where it splattered and made a sharp noise; she glanced to the person next to her to see if she had been startled, calmly shrugged her shoulders, picked it up and went on. It was one of the most graceful things I’ve ever seen. I learned a lot from Candy.

Sometimes when I was looking at Candy’s art work and trying to get a handle on what I thought she was expressing and would ask her questions about it, I got the feeling she had actually created an ink-blot test and was interested not in her own expression but in the reactions of the viewer. It made me wonder if her work was meant to be a reflection of just her own personality or if it was also a way for her to ask us to become more familiar with our own reactions. Her work was both provocative and interactive.

Candy was not an illustrator, but a true artist, never showing us what we already knew but giving us opportunities to know ourselves better.

Candy did not explain her decision on the sixteenth, define the issues, express her attitude, or anything. I suspect she felt that leaving a note would be a violation of artistic integrity. We should not ask ourselves why Candy did what she did, but why do we want to know. We can go over and over all sorts of memories, looking for clues; but in the end, would we find Candy, or pursue our own endless questions?

For some, life is a gradual experience spread over many consistent years; for others it’s concentrated in a few powerful years of great productivity and promise. All lives are full lives: Setting priorities, accomplishing goals, growing as much as we possibly can. At this moment, it is not Candy’s life which is empty.

Her life can inspire us in so many ways to be more mindful and compassionate, to give everyone a chance, and to create our own works of art. She cannot do everything for us.

It was so very easy to enjoy Candy’s friendship and art, her generosity and sense of humor. The challenge now is to make our own lives more creative. It would be a shame to grieve over Candy because of the entertainment, comfort, and companionship she provided and miss the point of gratitude for having shared life-altering experiences with her and because of her.

I don’t believe Candy was so much driven from this life by problems as she was being pulled so very strongly toward the birth imagery of the next one. Once when asked to paint something happy, she painted a beautiful sky with the head of a sleeping, older person in the lower corner in the shape of a gentle hill, without a figure to represent herself except for a beautiful empty dress hanging on a clothesline which disappeared into the clouds.

Her latest work dealt with the imagery of rebirth, sperm and egg, happy scenes of emergence without darkness. Candy found her way through life, creating and leaving much beauty behind her. May we do as well.

“Always You”, a poem by Tani Barlow, read by Eric Zakim.

In early spring the young quince trees send their thin arms
up toward the winter sun.
No matter snow or rain or winter frost; no matter mud,
no matter moisture lost; no matter what the heart is cost.

Long and lean the branches grow. Engloved, the new bark
pyre, is dotted with fresh buttons of desire.
And there in bloom of winters inner space
the orange of New Year* makes its jubilant case.

Now each time the lunar New Year comes around
I shall find a slender arm of spring
and I will feed its wiry, open wound
where parted it from ordinary vegetative fate
and I will daily change the water in its plate.

In chill white light of winter sun where
you disintegrated, I will see your sweetest
smile in the face of every open and exuberant flower.

* In January 2001 shortly before her death, Candy and Jing visited Tani Barlow and Donald Lowe in Tokyo. While there, Candy made several origami/orange shrines to celebrate the New Year.

Request for the remembrances of others.

Richard Kunst

Candy said last year that she was enjoying listening to the albums of an independent rock group named Modest Mouse. I would like to read the lyrics of one of their songs, entitled “Lives,” from the album The Moon and Antarctica. Candy, I know that you will enjoy hearing these lyrics one more time:


Everyone’s afraid of their own life
If you could be anything you want
I bet you’d be disappointed, am I right?
No one really knows the ones they love
If you knew everything they thought
I bet that you’d wish that they’d just shut up
Well, you were the dull sound of sharp math
When you were alive
No ones gonna play the harp when you die
And if I had a nickel for every damn dime
I’d have half the time, do you mind?
Everyone’s afraid of their own lives
If you could be anything you want
I bet you’d be disappointed, am I right?
Am I right? And it’s our lives
It’s hard to remember, it’s hard to remember
We’re alive for the first time
It’s hard to remember were alive for the last time
It’s hard to remember, it’s hard to remember
To live before you die
It’s hard to remember, it’s hard to remember
That our lives are such a short time
It’s hard to remember, it’s hard to remember
When it takes such a long time
It’s hard to remember, it’s hard to remember
My mom’s God is a woman and my mom she is a witch
I like this
My hell comes from inside, comes from inside myself
Why fight this
Everyone’s afraid of their own lives
If you could be anything you want
I bet you’d be disappointed, am I right?

Eirene Chen

read from e-mail sent in her place.

I don’t know anything about Buddhist memorial services. I do know that Candy was a pretty serious Buddhist during this past year, and that she was interested in moving on to the next incarnation, as the trials of her current life were getting to be too much, so to speak.

I enjoyed finger-painting with Candy very much. During the short time in which I was privileged to know her, she always struck me as a very perceptive, thoughtful, and immensely creative young woman whose creations, artistic and otherwise, never failed to move me with their unusual emotional power and insight into our inner worlds. I’m sad that such visions had to be the result of such tremendous inner turbulence, but I hope that her legacy will also inspire us to continue on our own searches. May there be peace for her.


Bruce Lawrence will place a white carnation in front of the photograph of Candy as an offering to her memory and invite others to offer their flowers if they wish — corresponds to offering of white scarves.


Bruce Lawrence will announce the displays of Candy’s artwork in the lobby, library, computer graphics room, and the computer room, where computers will be logged onto a web site dedicated to her.