Two months ago, an 11 year old little boy, succumbed after a strong and courageous seven year fight with leukemia. About 10 years ago, a beautiful, soon to be mother of three, heard the words “you have cancer.” I was standing next to her, in our kitchen, as she took that call from her doctor. I am privileged to be celebrating my 23rd year of marriage to that beautiful mother of three, Maureen. I was also privileged to call that 11 year old boy, Kethan, not just special friend but my honored hero. He would have started the 6th grade this year with my daughter.
The pain of cancer is so intense that I know I have buried it. I know I have buried it because the tears are flowing down my face now as I type this post. To type and to speak is to allow these emotions to come to the surface. As my fingers unleash my heart, I can not keep my eyes from welling up with the same emotions. Damn it. I love these people, and I know that 28 million other people who have cancer have people that love them, too. We all know that our temporal lives are limited, but cancer has a way of piercing through our veil of insomnia and making those limits stark, real… and painful. Quite simply, cancer sucks.
I was in Kethan’s living room on July 11 as his father carried him into the house, draped around his shoulders, in eternal slumber. Three days later, on July 14, I was granted the privilege of making a tribute to Kethan at his memorial service at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, the school he loved, and the school that still loves him and will never stop loving him. The connection between my love for Kethan and my love for Maureen is brought into full relief, because July 14 is also Maureen and my anniversary. I didn’t mention this tidbit in my tribute on that day because that day was his day, a day for Kethan and a day for everyone that could make to the SAS chapel, folks like the teacher that flew in and out from Colorado from his summer vacation because of what Kethan meant and means to all of us.
My TEDx world tour is born of my love for Kethan and my desire to honor his legacy and to be sure his quiet spirit, strength, courage and story of hope is carried to every corner of the world. After I paid Kethan my last respects, I got a crazy idea and went to the TED website. It was simple at first. I wondered if there was a TEDx in the country of his heritage, Malaysia. Lo and behold, on October 12, one week after what would have been Kethan’s 12th birthday, there was a TEDx in Penang, the pearl of the Orient. When I saw TEDxWeldQuay’s theme, Artistry Within, I knew this crazy idea was meant to be. If you watch Kethan’s Story, you will see that art is something he didn’t just discover but was gifted to do well.
At this point, I looked at other TEDx events occurring that week, and the contours of a world tour unfolded. Not 4 days later in Rome, there was another TEDx, TEDxTrastevere, its theme… Drops of Life. The Drops of Life logo being a white version of the same drop of blood that forms the logo of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the organization to which I’ve dedicated my time, talents and treasure in honor of Kethan. Even better, there were flights available to get me between the two cities with time to spare. Knowing that I still had to get back to Austin, I kept looking for the right last stop on this tour to bring the whole story together, and there it was. TEDxTallaght in Dublin, Ireland. The day after Rome. Their theme, the Atelier of Ideas.
I will give three unique talks, crafted to each city, to each theme, to each audience, however, the three will weave together into a harmonious whole to honor Kethan, as well as to tell my wife, Maureen, just how much I love her and how much I admire her continuing fight with the evils of cancer.