By Diane Elder
Special to the Palisades News
On Sunday, March 11, Pacific Palisades buried one of its finest sons, Sean Hunter, aged 22. I would like to share some memories of this special young man because the word “special” doesn’t go far enough to describe him.
I had the privilege of watching him grow up as one of my son Joey’s best friends. I had always known him as the carrot-top young boy with the big smile, but I slowly came to realize that he was much more than that.
During middle and high school, a time when boys are itching to show their physical prowess in often less than acceptable ways, Sean, bigger and stronger than all of them, was the peacemaker, the one who stopped the bullies and made sure the waiter got a good tip after his friends dashed out.
One time he received a pellet gun and the boys couldn’t wait to run around discharging it in every direction. While my own son dismissed my discomfort with that idea, Sean leaned forward and said, “Mrs. Elder, don’t worry. I’ll make a cardboard target and we can just shoot straight at that.” That was the first time I was struck by the maturity and thoughtfulness of this boy, who was only 12 years old at that time.
A few years later their little gang walked into the gym where I was exercising. While the other three immediately went to the most distant corner of the room, Sean hopped on the elliptical machine next to mine and engaged me in conversation. He was genuinely interested in what this mom was up to. Where do you find a teenage boy like that?
I saw him many other times at the gym working out and trying his best to stay fit during his illness. There was never a time that he didn’t stop what he was doing to come over and say hello.
One night a year or so ago he showed up at my house when it was in complete disorder. I apologized, but he said he was just so grateful and happy to be there.
Then came the night at Marix Tex Mex in a booth filled with his friends, when he told me that his tumor had come back. He displayed no anger, fear or self-pity. He was braver than anyone I had ever known but I will never forget his searching blue eyes looking at me, perhaps hoping I might have some answer. I didn’t.
My instinct was to hug him and make it all go away, but my son had told me repeatedly that Sean did not want pity, so I refrained. Instead I answered with some lame platitude about how none of us knows what the future holds and that a child born today might leave this world before him while a cure for cancer might be just around the corner.
I thought my ineptitude transparent, but then I saw yet another wide smile spread across his face like sunshine followed by an expression of gratitude.
Sean Hunter showed those of us lucky enough to have known him that kindness, faith, loyalty to friends, bravery and integrity know no limits of age or gender. These are the gifts he left behind.
(Editor’s note: Sean Hunter was born September 5, 1994, and died on February 28, 2017. Hunter graduated from Corpus Christi and Crespi High School and had completed his freshman year at Marymount College in Palos Verdes. He was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer in September 2014 at the age of 20. Services were held at Corpus Christi Church on March 11. He leaves behind his parents John and Michele and sibling Jamie. Donations may be made to St. John’s Health Foundation, attn: Mary Byrne, 2121, Santa Monica Blvd. Visit crowdrise.com/awalkwithsean for more information.)