Life Lessons & Silk Underpants

October 20, 2013

In my first week of Journalism class, I became the most hated writer in the school. My first piece was an opinion piece about a controversial topic, and my opinion did not correspond with the opinion of the general populace. The day the school paper came out, I was not welcomed back into the arms of a high school community proud of a sophomore expressing her opinion so vehemently, no. I was instead swept up in an eruption of angry e-mails, death glares, and the vilest of insults. I was even pulled out of my class to be reprimanded by a teacher and his mob of students, all of them pointing out every way in which my opinion is wrong and I should be ashamed of such wickedness. It got so bad that I just ran to my Journalism class, hid under the teacher’s desk, and cried.
Luckily for me, I was visited by an angel. Well, not an angel exactly. His name was Alexander Keck, and he was a sophomore, like me. He was too tall and skinny to be an angel, with a shock of messy brown hair and a crooked smile. He must’ve heard me, though, for he sought me out, kneeled down, and asked me what’s wrong. I explained, and the further I got into my story, the harder it was for the words to leave. I eventually just broke down and started crying again, and he just reached over and pulled me into a hug. He hugged me, a complete and utter stranger.
When I finally calmed down and started hiccupping, he reminded me how to laugh again. He sat next to me the entire hour and told me jokes and stories just to make me laugh. As the bell rung, we exchanged phone numbers, and continued to converse outside of school. He and I immediately became best friends.
As I got to know him better, I learned many things about him. I learned that he had a horrible taste in music, that he loves hot tubs and silk underwear (he prefers boxers), and that he hates the smell of oranges. I also learned that he had been battling liver cancer for five years and was currently in remission. It surprised me, really: he was so lively and energetic, there was no way he could be that sick.
But he was.
My junior year, his cancer returned, and he had to start the battle all over again. I even visited him personally in the Seattle Children’s Hospital, and I still could not believe that he was sick. He had multiple IVs in his arms, and couldn’t even move from the bed. Yet he still had enough energy to jokingly berate me on how tired I looked. He even had the gall to look me in the eyes and tell me that he was absolutely fine, in an attempt to alleviate my worry for his health.
So, we continued to talk and text; we even dated for a little while. His many hours spent alone in the hospital bed left him much time for musing: he and I would talk about life and death casually, and we would discuss the true nature of life and what it meant to live in a meaningful way. He told me that he wasn’t afraid of dying itself, but that his death would hurt his family and friends. He asked me that if he did die, that I would continue to love and be loved to make up for what he missed. And I promised him I would.
On October 2, 2012, Alexander Keck passed away. In the short time I knew him, Alex lived his life fully, and from that fateful day in Journalism, teleported me into his world and taught me how to be happy, despite the bad news that comes. That one time when we ate an entire gallon of ice cream together in the back of the movie theatre, he taught me how to let loose and live a little each day. During the summer, when we snuck out of our houses in the middle of the night just so we could play on a playground without any kids to get in the way, he taught me how to be both mature and childish. He taught me how to surround myself with things and people that I love when we sat in his backyard for four hours, staring at the stars and discussing how to be happy. But most importantly, as I watched him shiver and suffer in the confines of his hospital bed, he bestowed upon me his “most importantest life lesson ever:” he taught me to always wear nice underwear. Because you never know when you might need a doctor.
Even in his final moments, as I was whispering softly into the phone and his heart monitor kept beat in the background, he taught me to never be afraid of what’s to come, because life and death happen to all of us.
I am glad to say that Alex Keck has influenced my life in a positive way, and I am proud to call him my friend.
And as we were saying good-bye for the last time, he gave me one final life lesson: he said, “Jacqui, I need you to know… Do you remember when we met? What you said? … Well, your opinion is wrong. Just kidding. I just wanted to remind you to always have the last laugh, otherwise I will.”
Jacqlyn Sams