In memory of Jason Kovall

On August 16, I lost one of my best friends after a tough battle with stomach cancer. I was honored to read this today at his euology — and while I’m deeply regretful I even had to write something like this, I am proud and grateful for the chance to share a piece of a friend whom I so dearly loved with you. Please continue to DO SOMETHING in the fight against cancer, of all kinds. We must never give up.

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It’s not every day that somebody tells you they drink pickle juice. It was at this moment that I fell head over heels in non-romantic love with Jason – because he whispered it to me while standing at my cubicle, a vision with his tattooed arms and wonderful aura, so different, so unique from the drab cube farm we spent our days. Jason was a Customer Service Manager at the toy company where I wrote instruction manuals, and from the day I started and was introduced to him, I knew we’d be friends. We were the youngest in the department and immediately bonded over our shared sense of sarcasm and dark humor, and it wasn’t long before we were spending our lunch hours laughing and eating crappy fast food. What developed over the next nine years was a beautiful friendship; not just between he and I, but between our partners as well – and we became a fantastic foursome, Alyssa, Matt, Jason, and Juan, spending holiday weekends drinking wine and having overly-indulgent dinners. We knew deep secrets about each other, and we went through hard times — the types of life things that bond you to somebody. I’ve thought a lot about what I have wanted to say about Jason, and I think that Jason’s legacy and lasting message to us is that we need to live the life we WANT to live.

If you knew Jason, you knew that his career path was varied and unique – from attending mortician school to massage therapy, to customer service to nursing. He ultimately ended up working his ASS off and becoming a RN, the career he recently held and adored. Jason didn’t accept status quo. Jason didn’t accept taking on life with a B- or even an A- attitude. Jason got done what he wanted to get done, and nothing would stand in his way. A staunch and sometimes insufferable perfectionist, Jason kept going, kept persevering, through the nail biting and the agony, and studied his ass off – and in return his work was the business of saving lives. How did he propel himself through this, and what can we learn from him? We can remember that hard work is best accompanied by passion. Jason loved and lived in music. From his “oontz oontz” techno music born from his days as a raver, to the new and rising hipster melodies in Los Angeles, Jason allowed music to soothe his soul and rise him up.

He loved deeply, and authentically – finding his rock in Juan, a man so in touch with the human spirit and soul that he too, is impossible not to love. He made a giant cross country move from his hometown in Pennsylvania to Los Angeles, enamored by beaches just like this one; eventually fulfilling a goal and making one his home. All of these amazing achievements – an incredible, giving career, finding a respected partner, and moving across the country, were not enough for Jason, and he signed up for the AIDS life cycle, raising over $3,700 and committing to bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles – quite simply, because it helped other people – and he could.

All of these moments in Jason’s life were always enveloped in the most incredible sense of humor – witty, sarcastic, biting at times, but always true to the dual beauty and horror of humanity. In these painful few weeks after Jason’s death, his Facebook page has been aglow in memories, almost all of them involving laughter. His child-like playfulness, his quick wit, his infectious giggle – these were the things that made us drawn to Jason, and so we clung to him because he just made you feel good, and he was FUN. In meeting some of Jason’s close friends the past few weeks, something his close friend Renee said stuck with me. He made all of us feel so special, as if we were the “one”, his one true best friend. But the truth was, he had room for us all. We all loved Jason so sincerely, so deeply, and so intensely, that I know that even though he’s not here in physical form today, he IS here with us – and I see that in the blue sky, the wispy clouds, the small little symbols or signs we will receive in this lifetime that remind us of our laughing friend.

Jason loved us all authentically, as we loved him. He wasn’t shy about his gratitude or his emotion, and that alone is a huge lesson we can take from our dear friend and apply to our daily lives. Go about your day to day with a spirit of kindness, of gratitude, of defending what is right, of humor and health. Attack your work with passion. Speak up for the injustices of others. Lose yourself in your hobbies with sincerity, and if you don’t know what your passions in life are, fight until you find them. What we can all take from Jason’s legacy is finding the thing in ourselves that Jason saw and loved – the spark of the person that makes you YOU, the part of yourself that made him love you. Find it, hold it, nourish it, fight for it and carry it forward – in memory of our unforgettable friend, Jason.