My friend Ian died last week, he was in the trenches with a battle against cancer. And sadly the ugly son of a bitch we call cancer won. I’ve always hated cancer and have lost a handful of loved ones as a result of it. When I first heard that Ian had cancer, I quickly lowered my head in prayer. Asking God to give Ian the strength to fight and joy to face each day.
I felt optimistic because other people were praying along side me on behalf of him. I knew Ian was a warrior. And I knew that my Lord was good. But man, I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye in my own. I first met Ian at the 2015 grapplers heart tournament in Brooklyn New York. A tournament dedicated to adaptive BJJ (Brazilian Jiujitsu).
There, I watched Ian bravely go into all his matches with all he had. Most of his opponents could move faster then him and had much more mobility then him. Yet he didn’t doubt, he didn’t fear he simply went head and heart first into the storm. Ian lost all four of his matches, but not once did he complain.
Something that I could very much learn from, I was of Ian’s opponents in the nogi division. One thing that caught my attention was how he held on to the very last second before tapping out. I remember kneeling beside him, making sure he was okay. His coaches came to check on him and the only thing that I could think was that this kid was as tough as they come.
Since that time, Ian has went on to touch thousands of lives. He even received his blue belt, a belt that is not easy to get. Ian would soon find a way into the heart of UFC champion Chris Weidman. Weidman would fly Ian and his family out to a UFC event that he was fighting at. Ian got to accompany Weidman on his walk out.
I’m sure Ian also got to the honor to meet other UFC fighters, and I’m also positive that he left a lasting impression on them as well. The truth is, you don’t have to know someone for long in order for them to change your life or at least impact it in a tremendous way.
When I met Ian, I observed a lot of his interactions with people. He was always smiling, never shy and always willing to mingle with new people. Something that I have always struggled with and envied of others. I never actually got to say goodbye to Ian when we were in NY, but knowing that he had quickly found a place in my heart. I knew that it was okay.
When I found out that Ian had passed away, I remember sitting on the floor of my college dorm. I re-read the posting over and over again in hopes that I was reading it to fast. But I wasn’t, my heart started to pound and my palms started to sweat. Soon the tears would follow. I put my hands over my face and cried harder then I have in years. It didn’t matter to me how long I knew him. When you go to war with someone on the mat, you build a bond that cannot be taken away.
I then put my head into a pillow and screamed, I felt a real connection with Ian. Not only did we share a common bond in Jiujitsu but we both had cerebral palsy. And in my eyes that made us family. There’re a few things that I believe that we all can take from the life that Ian lived:
- Live a life without excuse, there is no reason under the sun that we can’t better our lives. Be it physically, spiritually or emotionally.
- Learn to love others well, as cliche as it is you never know when your last day will be.
- Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to be you.
- Don’t take your body and abilities for granted, our lives are gifts and we are meant to treat them as such.
Do your best not to live in fear, fear only holds us back from experiencing life to fullest. Do your best to find joy in all of life, this makes life far more enjoyable and helps you to live in the moment and one day at a time. That being said, this blog is for you, Ian, thank you for all you have done, thank you for the impact you have had on my life, thank you for what you have given to the sport of Jiujitsu and thank you for being who you are. I will never forget you bro.