Friends, twin brother reflect on David Lin’s legacy of kindness, involvement

Photos courtesy Lin Family

Coming back to campus has been extremely difficult for Rick Lin. He lost his brother, David Lin, barely a month ago, and the campus is still alive with all the memories they shared. Everywhere Rick Lin goes, he is reminded of his brother.

David Lin died on Jan. 7, after being diagnosed with leukemia in August 2016. A memorial will take place on Thursday to commemorate him as a passionate, selfless and caring person. No one is able to do so more than Rick Lin.

The twin brothers were inseparable. Rick Lin said that they did “nearly everything in their life” together. They were roommates as freshmen, leaders within the Council of International Students and Organizations (COISO) and became First Year Fellows (FYF) together. They both had aspirations to graduate and attend medical school, a dream Rick Lin will carry on without his other half.

David was confined to his hospital bed for the entire fall semester as he battled cancer. Though he was sick, he was resolute that he would be discharged, graduate and carry on a full, normal life.

“Even when he was sick, he was literally the most positive patient that I saw in the hospital. The nurses felt the same way. They shared stories to me that David was the best patient, never mean to them, even when he was in so much pain,” Rick Lin said. “I have so many videos on the phone where it was literally David doing random things and goofy even if he was in so much discomfort.”

Vivien Chen and Jake Kaplan, close friends of David Lin, said he was not afraid to have fun and had a great sense of humor.

“I do remember that, upon first impression, I never pictured him to be that sassy,” Chen said. “I remember last year where he liked using silly string, where he would like to spray people to surprise them.”

Rick Lin took the first two weeks of the spring 2017 semester off to be with family at his brother’s funeral in their home in Taiwan. He said it was easier to handle his emotions when he was with his family, so being back on campus and remembering his brother all the time has been a difficult adjustment. 

The Lakeside Patio is where memories flood Rick Lin’s mind with the most force. Rick Lin said he can still see his brother onstage speaking about International Week, which he helped organize with COISO in 2016.

“He had a big impact on campus and poured his heart and soul into it,” Rick Lin said. “This was the place where he felt most at home since moving to America from Taiwan.”

Chen took over David Lin’s position as COISO vice-president of internal affairs in the fall semester and marveled how he stayed plugged into the day-to-day leadership.

“He was always curious to know updates on COISO throughout the entire semester and would share social media posts about our events,” Chen said. “He would always talk to us in group chats and would join in our executive board meetings through the phone.”

Chen worked with him on many events and praised his leadership skills, his passion for COISO, and his friendliness – she said he would reply to her messages within “seconds.” Even though David Lin wasn’t on campus physically, Chen said his presence could still be felt.

“For COISO, he was a guardian angel,” Chen said. “He was always here in spirit and always cheering us on. He was just reliable and dependable.”

While some peers struggled to tell the Lin brothers apart, Chen had no problem differentiating the twins after spending more than two of her college years with them. When she found out David Lin had died, she was heartbroken.

“The first thing that crossed my mind was disbelief. It never hit me that he was gone,” Chen said. “It happened so quick … Guilt, in a way, because I wish I had done more for him and been there more for him. A little frustrated, too. He had his whole life planned ahead of him; he was going to medical school.”

The Lin brothers became FYFs at Stanford Residential College to help smooth out other students’ transitions to college life. That was where the twins met Kaplan, a residential assistant who would become a close friend.

“When I walked around campus with either David or Rick, we would inevitably run into one of their residents and I would always laugh when one of Rick’s residents would say to David, ‘Hi Rick!’” Kaplan said. “David would, of course, be cordial and smile since the freshmen may not have known he had a twin, but I could never hold back my laughter.”

Kaplan will always remember David Lin’s infectious laugh and cheerfulness.

“David was the kind of friend that everyone should aspire to be,” Kaplan said. “Campus isn’t the same without him and I miss him very much.”

As Rick Lin eases his way back onto a campus riddled with bittersweet memories, he said he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to feel happiness again or regain a sense of normalcy. The only thing that can help, he said, is time and friends.

“I will never be able to go back to how it was before,” Rick Lin said. “But time is the biggest factor that is helping me. Over time, I will learn to live a new life.”

Rick Lin now wears a strand of orange “Fo Zhu,” Buddhist praying beads, which belonged to his brother. He has pictures of his brother in his wallet and looks at them to give him a sense of peace. Having pieces of his twin nearby reminds him to study hard so he can make it to medical school and fulfill their shared dream.

“David is my biggest motivation to stay strong. He was so strong during his treatment and I have to stay strong for him as well,” Rick Lin said. “I’m trying to have that mindset. It’s hard, but I know I have to do what I have to do to achieve my ultimate goal – being a physician. For me and for him.”

A memorial for David Lin will be held at the Lakeside Patio at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9.