Monday, November 16, 2009

Sean McCabe: a Friend, a Teacher, an Inspiration

I decided that I wanted to be a professional cross country ski racer when I was 15 years old, during a 72 hour fast in the High Sierras of California. Sean my friend and teacher made the trip possible. Every year he applied for a scholarship for two high school students to attend an Outward Bound course. He and his wife Laura are two of my greatest role models and inspirations in life. Sitting near that stream many of the life goals I wrote down were a reflection of my goal to be like Sean. I still have my old journal and list of goals, several of which have been achieved. In May, Sean was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and given two weeks. Sadly Sean passed away last Saturday. Sean has made a great influence in so many lives and I will miss my friend greatly.

Sean McCabe working on a Self Portrait (
Photo by John Hanron)

Sean turned one of the unfinished classrooms into the best rock gym I have ever been in. He would pick my brother and I up at 6:30am and we would go to the climbing gym at school. My brother and I pretty much lived in the gym, trying to work up to the incredibly challenging routes that Sean would pump out. Climbing with Sean there just made it more fun. Sean was usually the last teacher to head home at the end of the day and often we would climb after cross country running, ski or soccer practice and catch a ride with him. Sean spent long days at the office but always loved being home with Laura and their two beautiful girls Novie and Dashe. Although he loved his students he relished the summer months and the family's climbing trips.

In September I made it back to the Methow for my brothers wedding. Sean was having good and bad days, so wasn't sure if he would be able to make the celebration but was certainly going to try. Just before the ceremony started I saw Sean with the girls out in the driveway. Already so happy for my brother and Alieta, I was amazed that I could smile any bigger.

Chad, Alieta and Sean

A few days after the wedding I stopped over at the house to bring the McCabes some of the fresh apple cider we had pressed at the wedding. Sean and I had our last face to face conversation. As a testament to Sean's character he was more concerned about me and my well being than himself. Although he did talk about his illness and the changes in his life. He talked about staying positive and of his love for his girls: Laura, Novie and Dashe.

The McCabe Family: Dashe, Laura, Novie and Sean

For my birthday this year my mom and dad gave me a print of one of Sean's paintings. Like the good twin brothers we are, Chad and I selected the same painting, 'Cutthroat Pass'. Sean told me that he painted it from memory after running the 30 miles from Rainy Pass to Harts Pass solo. Cutthroat Pass, the name of the piece and one of the features of the run, is one of my favorite spots. It is a beautiful painting but holds even more meaning once you have run there early in the morning. I have yet to complete the full 30 mile journey, but I did get to run with Laura and Leslie the first few miles back in September.

"Cutthroat Pass" by Sean McCabe

Check out more of Sean's work online at In addition to the originals, canvas and paper prints are available as well.

Thank You Sean for everything. Everyday I try to be more like you. I will always look out for your girls. My thoughts and prayers are you, Laura, Novie and Dashe.


Anonymous said...

It was extremely interesting for me to read this article. Thank you for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

Anonymous said...

That's a very touching article, you write really well and just made me discover another artist. As a skier and art lover, I had been drawn by the art work from Sean via the news of his passing away. May he RIP, he looked amazingly strong and positive on the pics.