I had the privilege of meeting Sean + Kenny at a photo session we did at City Park in Denver this winter. My friend Madeline Otto met them while she was photographing their friend’s wedding the year prior and had planned on doing a photo shoot with them when she was visiting Colorado. But due to the forest fires and covid – she had to cancel her trip and asked if I might be available to do their session! I’m so thankful I got to meet these two beautiful souls.
They have such a powerful story and I think sharing Sean’s words from his recent IG post says it best:
Insight from Sean
|“It’s certainly been a difficult one for us all, and I thought I’d share what I’ve been going through, what I’m thankful for, and why I haven’t been very active on social media.|
Late last year I began experiencing some issues that were somewhat minor, but noticeable in my day to day life. Shortly after quarantine began in March, the issues drastically hastened and I had to finally go get myself checked out by a doctor.
With Covid-19 just starting to explode, it made getting in to see a doctor quite a scheduling challenge. After 3 months, 6 doctors, over 40 blood tests, 4 MRI’s, 2 x-rays, and an EMG, I was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
You may remember hearing about ALS a few years back when the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral for raising money for research.
In short, it’s a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, progressively destroying the motor neurons controlling your muscles. At this point I’ve lost almost entirely my ability to walk, have very limited hand control, and trouble eating and breathing, among other things.
Unfortunately I no longer can work and now need constant assistance with daily life. Because of this, Kenny and I moved back to live with my parents in Colorado.
I’m thankful for Kenny, his family in Pennsylvania, and my brother for being there and supporting me in the summer when I was going through all the tests and being stuck not knowing what was happening for those months. I’m thankful now for the few friends I’ve told and my family in Colorado for being here and supporting me now.
ALS is most often seen in adults 40-70 and is extremely rare to see in a person in their 20s. At this time, there is no cure.”
Celebrating the Present
After meeting Sean and learning about his story I knew I wanted to do something more. Reading the outpouring of love on Sean’s Instagram post sharing about his diagnosis, inspired me to reach out to his partner Kenny to see how we could love the heck out of Sean and his family since he has had one hell of a year! I’m excited to share words from Sean’s closest friends. They each share their unique perspective on what they love and appreciate about this incredible person. Even in the brief time I have know Sean I was amazed by his joyful spirit, strength and witty sense of humor! I’m so thankful for these two!!
Thoughts from Friends
Sean is my best friend, my brother. He is the first person I considered to be my chosen family. He’s probably one of few people who truly understands me, hell he gets me more than I do sometimes. It’s hard to say what my favorite memory is, there are so many.
Where do I start? The time we moved into our first apartment and ate took out on the counter because we didn’t have any furniture or internet. There was this one time, Sean and I were playing bartender at a Halloween party and we got so drunk Sean fell in a rose bush. He has a scar to remember that.
Or any of the times we would just chill and play Naruto for literal hours, often times the sun would be coming up before we called a quits! Sean has many qualities that makes us love the man. But the main one for is, he has always been there for me not matter. He has never judge me for being myself. Through and through he continues to be a true friend. I feel like Sean is always in his element. If there is ever a moment he isn’t he’ll leave. Literally.
If there is ever a moment he isn’t he’ll leave. Literally.I am truly blessed to have such a man in my life for ten years now. WOW! And honestly don’t know where I would be if he never was.
Thelonious X. Turner
I have known Sean since before high school. I honestly can’t pick just one memory. At freshman orientation, we spotted each other from across the gymnasium floor. As soon as we locked eyes, we ran toward each other, embraced – Sean swung me around – and we haven’t let go of each other since. I wouldn’t have survived high school without Sean. Our teenage angst was well matched for each other.
We have helped each other through chemistry, advanced placement literature, and Spanish.
Another very cherished memory was on a Valentine’s Day where we ordered sushi takeaways and stayed in our pajamas all night, probably drinking too much tequila or red wine (most likely both) and watched Beyoncé videos.
Sean and I have been there for each other through one too many heartbreaks, getting lost in The Big Apple, breaking the law, 21st birthdays, graduations, being wingman and wingwoman for each other, we’ve been through weddings and many family celebrations as well. Our history, spanning nearly 15 years, cannot be told by one single memory. It’s the collective memories that make our story so unique and incredibly special. Sean is my oldest friend. The Meredith Grey to my Christina Yang. My person.
My favorite quality of Sean is that he is the most supportive friend I have ever had. He never holds judgement. He only holds space for me to be me. With that, I get to see a softness to Sean as he approaches the people, and the creatures he loves. He’s gentle, compassionate and unbelievably supportive.
I have had the privilege to witness Sean transform from a lost high school kid to a confident and cunning openly gay man. He’s most in his element when he is surrounded by those who he is most comfortable with. There are very few people he’s allowed himself to be comfortable and vulnerable with. I’ve seen almost a release, an ease, a softness when he’s surrounded by those magical humans he’s allowed into his sacred space. Through this transformation, I have seen that Sean’s power is his creative mind. When he plays the piano, experiences art, listens to music, dances to Beyoncé, cooks for others, or even plays video games, Sean is really in his element and his power.
Sean has many qualities. Some of them might be questionable, but most of them I love. One of my favorites might be his ability to separate the stress from life. When I’ve reached out to Sean for advice or support, he always finds a way to make me feel at ease. He makes me feel like everything will be ok, and that anything I might be going through isn’t actually quite as bad as it seems.
To ask when Sean is in his element is hard, because Sean is so creative and passionate about art and music amongst other things. But for me watching Sean interact with his family or his best friends, or even strangers he’d just met, is when I saw him shine. We don’t all have that strength of charisma, but Sean has it in spades. I always see Sean as someone able to light up a room. To see Sean in his element and in his power is to see him make others feel loved.
I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to pinpoint my favorite memory with Sean. All I know is that a piece of me will always hate that our memories might have been cut short.
Well, let’s try to pinpoint a favorite memory of Sean.. I think mine would be watching Sean try to ingest a decorative chili pepper at Terra Firma (a former brunch haunt). Through the pain and agony, Sean remained a smiling beam light and energy as always. I’ve never met anyone with such an infectious smile and laugh. Sean’s most in his element when meeting new friends, his energy always leads to an easy and meaningful relationship with anyone he encounters.
As the resident MaMa Bear, my favorite memory of Sean is attending the PRIDE parade with Sean and his many friends. Seeing how much fun these young men had throughout the day. A day including a lot of glitter and crop tops! It was an unforgettable time for all to celebrate who they are.
It’s difficult to choose one favorite quality of Sean’s. I have seen his passion in striving to mentor younger staff at work whom he supervised. His kindness in helping them understand why they were performing a task and not just telling them to do the task. I have also seen times when others may have been unkind to Sean. He consistently showed forgiveness which speaks to the type of man he is. And then there is his amazing smile that brightens up a room….and his sense of humor…….What more needs to be said about that!
When is Sean in his element? – I know Sean loves the mountains and fishing but I never had the opportunity of joining him on those adventures. However, I was fortunate enough to spend a week with Sean at the ocean. I could see in him the sense of calm, centering and strength in watching the ocean waves, feeling the warmth of the sun on his face, and keeping his feet in the sand. (even when the wind was blowing sand in our faces!)
Fav memory: I figure I am not unlike many of Sean’s New York friends when I first recall our nostalgia for Sean as the most polite couch surfer we have all collectively known. What resulted of a quick evacuation from a Harlem apartment turned into several months on our Bushwick couch, a revolving fourth in a 3 bedroom apartment not too dissimilar to the neighborhood or our novice to the city.
However, it was around this time that speaks to my favorite memory of Sean. One that takes place at a now-defunct brunch spot a few blocks from my apartment which we choose to believe went under because of our abuse of their lenient bottomless mimosa policy. After a few carafes, a planterbox next to our patio table housed a few unrecognized peppers sprouting from the spring soil. One to always be coerced into trouble, the table convinced Sean to eat one of the peppers. He knows how the story ends but lets just say its a favorite memory.
Fav quality: My favorite quality Sean possess is his utter shamelessness. I commend Sean for introducing me to some of my worst qualities, and I say that with the fondest of heart for what he has given me. Some may say it’s a byproduct of his youth, others may say it’s his offensively handsome face. To amplify the irony of living life to its fullest would be too easy considering Sean’s circumstance, but always being one to beat others to the punchline—it’s appropriately appropriate.
Sean in his element: I feel despite being a social butterfly, I feel Sean is his best commanding a small group of close friends. I have always loved and cherished the quiet nights in or small gatherings out together knowing I would get my fix on his charm, humor, and dancing. Few people carry the ability to be the life of the party while making every person in the room feel like the most important person amongst the crowd. Never short on conversation, never stressing common ground, Sean is a case study for the most compatible personality.
What can I even say? You are a light in everyone’s life. Your energy is contagious and your presence is felt deeply and widely by many. If I had to pick a favorite memory of you I couldn’t because there’s no moment I spend with you that I don’t equally appreciate. You are my favorite dance partner, my favorite boyfriend, my kissing buddy, my degenerate. I love the way you love life and I love the way life loves you back. So blessed to know you and to have been a part of your journey. You will forever be etched in to the deepest parts of my heart.
Your forever Shrek idol,
Memory: Chase, Kenny, Sean and I had the luxury of getting a weekend away in Sea Isle, in a crappy motel off the shore. We were all hanging out, the boys playing board games and drinking, me with my feet propped up enjoying watching them. Chase requested I come sit closer to him, and I had replied with a quick no. He said, “but what about what I want?” The first thing I did was look at Sean, who had his jaw dropped to the floor in disbelief Chase would ask that. It was a home alone Macaulay Culkin face. He had completely busted laughing, as had I. Sean’s reaction and followed up comments to Chases remark had made me slightly pee myself. And although I was several months pregnant, I don’t blame the kid for making me pee, I blame Sean ;)
Quality: Sean’s sense of humor. Sometimes his jokes will come out of left field, and the room will break out into laughs. His self confidence allows him to tease his friends in good fun, as well as take it when the jokes go to him. He’s quick on his toes with his comments, so much so that tears from laughing so hard will come out
In his element: he seems to be lighthearted and care free when he’s with family or friends. Silly, outgoing, loving, laid back. Just himself.
Lastly Kenny, Sean’s partner, shared:
I’m sure I speak for most people when I say that there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to fully explain how much Sean has impacted each and every one of our lives. For the first two years of our relationship we couldn’t walk into a single bar or restaurant without someone knowing him and coming up to tell me some kind of story about him. Whether the story was inspiring or something his parents wouldn’t be too proud of, I could instantly see how infectious Sean’s personality was. Since then Sean has been one of the few people who can consistently pull me out of my comfort zone to do things or go places I would have otherwise shrugged off just to stay at home.
Over the last four years, Sean and I have been able to share countless amazing memories no matter where we were in the world. From Cancun to NYC to Aspen to Sea Isle City, the times we have spent together can never be forgotten or replaced. Because of Sean I know I will forever be changed for the better and that his persona will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I know I will never be able to drink a vodka soda and listen to ABBA without thinking of Seans “incredible” dance moves. I know I will never be able to eat a chicken tender platter at dinner without thinking of Sean telling me to try something new for once when all I want is chicken and honey mustard. I know I won’t be able to look at the Denver Zoo llamas without thinking of the “Sean Selfie Pose.” I know I will never be able to yell at bad Denver drivers while listening to sad Taylor Swift songs without thinking of Sean’s facial expressions trying to comprehend how I can be both sad and angry at the same time even though he knows it’s the Philly driver in me yelling. I know I will never watch Moana the same way after Sean played it three times a day for a whole year because that’s what he wanted to fall asleep to. And finally I know a Pete’s marg with a burrito bowl and a quesadilla on the patio will never taste the same without you next to me where you belong.
As most people in my life know, talking about my feelings is probably one of the hardest things I can push myself to do. Knowing you are going to lose someone so important in your life will never make sense but having someone like Kelly in your life who is there to record your most intimate moments and feelings is immeasurable. While I am certain that there is no answer as to why this is happening to you of all people, I know that you will leave behind a group of amazing people ready to support each other through whatever may come our way. As cheesy as it is, I’ll end this with a WandaVision quote: “We have said goodbye before, so what stands to reason…” “We’ll say hello again.”
I love you the most,
Kenneth (Eldypoo) Lacis
If you’d like to learn more about ALS or donate towards ALS research please look into the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the ALS Association. Donations to chapters go to support patients with ALS and their families involved in those chapters.