Even in departure, Sean Connor found a way to make me grin.
That was one of his greatest gifts—making people smile, helping them overcome difficult moments, finding the positive side.
In a nutshell Sean Connor was a fighter.
He never gave in, always looked forward.
To suggest he was an inspiration is clearly an understatement.
Fortunately Sean was also a very good friend and for any others who knew him well we are truly blessed for having shared time and space with the man.
Sean was a familiar name to Kelowna Capital News readers as the staff photographer for many years. His lengthy battle with clival chordoma, a type of brain tumour, ended Friday. Sean was 59 years of age.
The fact that he lived this long is surprising. Like many journalists, Sean chose to live on the edge.
Even the unpredictable and sometimes uncomfortable role as a newspaper photographer was not exciting enough for Sean—he had to go that extra mile.
For him, that extra mile meant time spent as a war correspondent with stints in Somalia and Bosnia.
The happy-go-lucky, adventurous photographer was in his element. The crazier the situation, the more he liked it.
The nastier things got, the more of a rush Sean seemed to get. Running checkpoints, staring at guns pointed directly at him, and heading into battle zones with nothing but a camera was the sort of stuff Sean lived for.
Ironically, few folks were gentler, as quick witted, or more jovial.
He loved a good joke, enjoyed a hearty chuckle, and his eyes often sparkled when he was in the midst of mischief.
I was fortunate enough to meet Sean long before his battle with tumors and other health issues kicked in.
Our association originally began as fellow journalists and quickly evolved into a friendship after our paths crossed a few times.
Even then we shared a lot in common—a love of photography, interest in people, a sense of adventure and a bit of a wild side.
Admittedly, our relationship became closer as Sean’s health took a sudden turn for the worse.
We made a point of seeking each other out for lengthy visits, not just to discuss health scenarios but also to simply enjoy conversation and a shared sense of dark humour.
Over the years, we visited each other in hospitals a few times, but the majority of our gatherings were in coffee shops, cozy pubs, or preferably my backyard where no one knew either of us.
I have never met a braver man than Sean Connor.
Regardless of the aggressiveness and the pain that his rare disease perpetrated upon him, Sean continued to believe he would eventually win.
His determination was more than just bravado for he did not know the term surrender.
Most of all, I believe it was our love of laughter that drew us together.
There were no borders to our dark humour we shared, nor a level on the laugh meter we were not allowed to exceed.
And while we shared many tears, the majority of them were from laughing too hard.
Ironically, it was Sean’s health that led to my wife Teresa and Sean’s wife Sandra getting to know one another.
Their unique friendship has a shared bond similar to what Sean and I fostered.
Sandra and Teresa related to one another and found their own unique level of comfort and support. It is easy to understand why Sean was so in love with Sandra and she with him.
It was a story Sandra related to Teresa yesterday that remains in my brain as I write this.
As mentioned, Sean loved to live on the edge a bit. A week or so before he died, comfortably in his sleep, Sean decided he needed one more adventure.
A passionate biker, he would occasionally take short rides on his Harley with a few good buddies on days when he felt strong enough to ride.
That was the deal with Sandra, he would only ride on days when he was healthy enough to concentrate on the road.
So it was only a mild surprise when Sandra received a phone call late in the afternoon a few days ago to hear Sean on the other end of the phone telling her he was in Beaverdell. Sean and a few friends had decided on a nice afternoon ride and now that it was later in the day he decided to check in.
Sean suggested he was going to spend the night in Beaverdell, however a concerned Sandra had a better plan.
She casually reminded him his life-saving medication was in Kelowna, that he had not packed it with him.
A few hours later, Sean pulled in the driveway, clearly worn out but with a grin from one side of his face to the other.
For Mr. Connor, it was just another adventure complete.
Though the constant surgeries, therapy, scans, pain killers and other treatments over the past five years, exacted their price on Sean’s mind and body, garbled his speech and stole his memory, they never diminishing his lust for life or sense of humour.
I will miss you dear friend.
A celebration of life for Sean Connor will be held at 1 p.m. Monday, July 18, at Springfield Funeral Home in Kelowna.