Sunsets, Sunrises, and Our Loved Ones

A letter from the Medical Alumni Association Board (MAAB) president

by Edward S. Kim, ’92 BS, ’96 MD (HPME)

Headshot of man wearing a dark suit jacket and a blue necktie.

As we begin 2022, it’s important to reflect on our prior experiences and look toward future goals — but also appreciate the present. That’s why, this month, I’ve decided to write about sunsets, sunrises, and loved ones.   

Sunsets are the time in the evening when the sun disappears or daylight fades. It is also when something expires or terminates at the end of a fixed period, unless renewed.  The setting of the sun represents the completion of the day’s work, symbolically the opportunity to rest. In Chinese culture, the sun and moon are seen as a dualism, showing two completely opposite forces coming together and complementing each other. Yin and yang.   

In some African cultures, the sun setting and moon rising represent a life cycle from birth to death, with a rebirth happening every morning. Sunsets remind us that, no matter how good or bad the day was, it always comes to an end, and importantly, the bad moments never last forever. Sunsets teach me to identify the little moments that make life beautiful amidst all the changes. 

Sunrises are defined as time in the morning when the sun appears, or full daylight arrives. The sunrise symbolizes birth, growth, new beginnings of all kinds, and resurrection. Every sunrise gives you a new beginning and new ending. Let the morning be a new beginning to a better relationship and a new ending to the bad memories. It’s an opportunity to enjoy life, breathe freely, think, and love. Be grateful for this beautiful day and appreciate the break of night.  

Above: Deborah and David Kim

Northwestern scientists have discovered that exposure to light helps reset our internal clock so that we sleep better — which also helps us maintain weight and even shed pounds. Our rest and sleep are necessary for maintaining routine and structure for our health, as well as allowing new beginnings to unfold. 

Sunsets remind me of the fallen angels in our lives. Personally, this includes my father, David, and my brother, Donald. My father was a professor of finance, an avid golfer, and a great mentor and role model. His life journey was unexpectedly shortened by cancer. My brother, Donald, suddenly and unexpectedly passed at age 12. He was a hardworking, extremely intelligent, affable young man. He was always surprising us by overachieving, whether in sports, music, or school. I don’t mention them often but do often think and reflect upon my fond memories of them.   

Above: Donald Kim

When I started my new position as chair of Solid Tumor Oncology and Investigational Therapeutics at the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina, we created an endowed chair position in my brother’s name; I was the Donald S. Kim Distinguished Chair for Cancer Research.  Several years ago, our family had the privilege of naming an endowed scholarship at Feinberg School of Medicine in my father and mother’s name, The Dr. David J. and Deborah Y. Kim Family Scholarship. This is one of the many ways which I try to honor him.  Giving back to the next generation while remembering my father lives on in a way, supporting many goals and dreams.   

Although I am deeply saddened that they have both passed on, I am constantly reminded that their spirits accompany me with each beautiful sunset and sunrise.   

As you tackle the year, taking on new projects, and continuing to navigate the pandemic, it’s vitally important to observe as many sunsets and sunrises as possible. These natural events will bring a sense of constancy, calm, and reminiscence of our fallen angels who inspire and support us. I remind everyone to always remember both those close to us, as well as those we have lost, to plan for the opportunities ahead of us, even as we cherish each day.