Honouring A Memory

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I’d like to tell you about a friend of mine who has since passed on.  Some of you might know who I’m talking about.  His name was Kal.

Kal first moved to the elementary school I attended in the 4th grade.  His parents were divorced, and his dad worked at the CBC t.v. studios downtown (back in the 80s).  I gained a friend in Kal quickly because of our love of sports.  He could get tickets to the Blades games, and we sometimes went.  There were a small group of friends that hung out with Kal at the elementary school we attended.

Fast forward to the 8th grade, and we were still good friends. Time came for us to pick high schools to attend, and this was the end of many friendships we cultivated since we were very little.  Kal attended Bedford Road Collegiate for the first year or two, if my memory serves me correctly.  Then he came to Mount Royal and we graduated grade 12 together.

Things started to change for Kal about a year after we graduated.  This was the first time I met his mom, Rosemary.  It was at a Blades home game, and I happened to spot Kal sitting with his mom in one of the press boxes that were located at the top of the lower level (perks of his dad probably….lucky guy).

This is when I first found out that Kal had cancer.

This wasn’t just any cancer, just as this wasn’t any average guy cancer decided to pick on.  Kal’s tumour was located in a difficult spot, in his brain right behind an optic nerve.  The first time he ended up in the hospital I believe was around Christmas of either 1992 or ’93….I’m thinking it was ’92 because I worked at SUN 102 FM radio as an all-night radio personality.  Kal stayed in the hospital then for over a year in the cancer ward.

Before I go further, you need to understand Kal’s physique.  He was skinnier than me, yet somehow he got all the ladies in high school, figure that one out!  Anyways, as his condition grew worse some of his friends stopped coming to the hospital to visit him.  Eventually I was the only friend who came to visit him, aside from his girlfriend at the time.  He let her go, saying she didn’t have to wait around for him, that she deserved to be happy.

Then after about 18 months in the cancer ward of University Hospital (it was a year at least), he made an amazing recovery.  Some might even call it miraculous.  His mom at the time was into alternative medicines and took Kal to Mexico, not only for a much needed vacation but for him to receive sharks cartilage.  Once he got discharged from the hospital he stayed with his mom.  He was around 20 at this point, hadn’t really worked at all, or dated because of his cancer bout.

When he got home, he didn’t complain about the illness or of his circumstances.  I let him drive the new car I got (it was used) so he could attempt to get his license back from SGI.  We went out Saturday nights to Whiskey Jacks to sing karaoke.  He was a hit with the ladies there, maybe it was because of the bandanna he wore (he wore it because he had a shunt inserted into the top of his head and he had a magnet at the back of his head that tied into the bandanna…can’t remember what the magnet did though).  He enjoyed listening to me sing and he danced up a storm.  When I had a late night out and didn’t come home when I should have, as I still lived at home at the time, when I got up in the morning my mom gave me a message from Kal to call him.  Mom called Kal first if she was unable to find me.

For a few years he was doing really well, still not able to work because of the effects of the tumour so his mom put him to work with her at her home based business.  Then the tumour came back again, and this time it wouldn’t take no for an answer.  This was around the same time that Kal was fed up of sitting on the sidelines having cancer dictate his life to him.  He enrolled at Universal Career College which used to be across the street from the Capri Hotel downtown.  He took the accounting course and as he started to get sicker, his mom got him into the Capri (by this time it was a living facility for people with special needs or disabilities).

The tumour really messed with him, as there were some days his eyes wouldn’t see straight, there were some days where he couldn’t get up to walk to the bathroom, and there were some days he had to write…oh, here’s another thing too….the tumour made his right hand pretty much useless, so he learned to write with his left.

One day he walked into the computer class and apologized for being late because in Kal’s words “my radiation appointment went a little bit longer than it should have.”  This moved the school in such a way that they payed the highest honour of any student, but more on that in a minute.

Things got to the point where he got extremely sick, and was unable to attend school anymore.  I think I was the last friend who saw him alive, I remember sitting there with his mom in his room.  He was sitting straight up at a 90 degree angle, looking gaunt and in a comatose state.  His eyes were big and wide and he just sat and stared straight ahead looking at me, unable to speak, unable to fight his way out.

I will spare you the details of his last night alive, but Kal Ross Hunt passed away in October of 1999, at the age of 27, having lost a seven year battle with cancer.

The school was so moved by his reasoning for being late, that they named an award after him that went to the student who completed their studies successfully in spite of very difficult circumstances.

At the funeral, they played a slide show of pictures that his dad had edited together, and I realized something.  For Kal being such a good, close friend, I never took a picture with him, ever.  That still bothers me to this day.

I know this is a comedy blog, but this is the only posting of my blog that I’ve put under my regular facebook account for everyone to see, because there is a message here that’s not to be lost in all of this.  This is the only blog entry I will write that won’t deal specifically with comedy, but does apply to it a little bit.

Do you know when you will die?  Do any of us know when God will call us home?  The answer is no.  So you would think that people would take advantage of these days they have been given to make the most of their lives.  But sometimes, the people who have been touched personally by loss, one way or another, are the ones who spend their days scared to truly  live, or they spend all of their days protecting this image they have of themselves, bullying people and cutting others down in the process.  Don’t worry, I’m not singling out anyone specific, this is something that happens all around us.

But why does it happen is the broader question here.  Why do we wait until it’s usually too late to say what we needed to about the person we love, or wait until it’s too late to step out and try something that might make us uncomfy or scare us?  At the end of the day, we need to surround ourselves with people whom we love.  If you know somebody who is struggling physically, like Kal did, don’t be afraid to tell them how much you admire them for taking on the battles of life with a courageous attitude.  If the last thing you said to a person was something negative or hurtful, and that person happened to pass away later that day, how would you feel?

I never got to tell Kal that he was my hero.  That’s because I realized he was a hero of mine when he passed away.

If you go to Prairie View Crematorium (just outside of the city on the way to Regina), stop in and take a walk past the stone labyrinth and through the trail in the forest.  There you will see a monument that was built for Kal.  I think his remains are there.

The best way to honour those who have passed on is obvious, to live as they would have wanted you to live, without fear, with kindness in your heart….but what about those who haven’t passed on yet, who are still here?  How is it best to honour your loved ones, friends or family?

Look inside your heart and you will find the answers to those questions.  We can’t wait for someone to pass on before we feel the need to honour them.  Be a blessing to those around you, be encouraging, be helpful, be kind.  Life is too short to die alone or with regrets in your heart.

How does this apply to comedy?  Well, it moreso applies to life.  Kal didn’t let his circumstances dictate who he was or how he treated others.  Dare to dream big dreams.  Honour those in your life, and Kal, by simply being the best you can be every day.


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