It was last March (2016) when I got a phone call from my great friend Ken. It started just like any and every call I have ever received from Ken, upbeat and full of energy. Ken is a very positive guy and the best way to describe being around him is that you feel alive. He is energetic, enthusiastic, genuine and an eminently likable guy. However, on this call he became serious and I sat down and listened to what was, next to the call I got when my Father had a stroke, was the worst call I have ever received.
Ken had missed an exhibition hockey game, (his son Jake has played on the same rep hockey team with Rhys since they were 8 and were line mates most of that time), which he rarely does. It turns out he was at the hospital undergoing brain surgery to remove a large tumour they had discovered just a day and a half before. Ken was calling to tell me about his diagnosis.
He did a great job making what was horrible and tragic news into something understandable. He was not afraid to deal with the elephant in the room and I listened while he described just how serious his situation was; brain cancer of the most aggressive sort.
It was much to digest. Here was a guy in the prime of his life; a guy who doesn’t drink or smoke and is in good shape telling me that essentially all the healthy choices he has made has not mattered a lick. He has two kids, exactly the same ages as my two. I felt like I was looking in a mirror and it shook me. It shakes me still. How could this have happened? How can this happen?
Ken has always been a guy you can go to and just talk. I’ve vented about work, about various personal issues, and he has listened exactly the way you would hope a friend would. He has helped me when I was looking to change jobs; he has been and is a friend, mentor, confidant and fellow Hockey Dad. This is so unfair.
I decided I wanted to do something for him. I felt so helpless both to help him and to help me come to terms with this insidious illness. It took me a while. I couldn’t figure out how to tell him how I felt, how much I treasured his friendship, how this was so goddamned unfair. Eventually I realized that the very thing I use to reduce stress in my life might be something I could use to express all that I have not really been able to do while allowing me an opportunity to work through my own thoughts and feelings.
This is a painting I did of Ken and his family. The quote comes from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu and it is one I have always been fascinated by. The Rose family is a perfect example of this quote.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
The painting process has helped me and Ken’s reaction when I gave him the painting has reinforced my decision to do it for him. He is loved deeply by his family and all his friends and he certainly returns that love tenfold.
Oh Yeah.. one more thing. Fuck Cancer.