Our dear friend, Xenos Khan
Last Friday evening, the inconceivable took place. We lost one of the pillars of our precious GGA family. We lost our friend, mentor and colleague, Xenos Khan, as quickly and shockingly as a flash of lightning, shattering our universe and shaking us to our cores.
Xenos, “Xen”, was as calm and solid as his nickname. He was the type of man who could hold a conversation about any topic for hours; who would take an avid curiosity and interest in another person’s passions and projects and then go home, conduct more research, and come back with interesting articles and follow up questions. He would take on the world and more, carrying the work and weight of several people on his shoulders, never once wincing at the effort. He was the kind of person to write out a lengthy, theoretical essay just to make a longwinded joke or to sit with you at the office late at night to troubleshoot an aging computer system from the ‘90s that had never been updated. He would take you up on a half marathon challenge on a whim, valiantly persevering even though he had only he had only started running seriously a few years prior. He would prep you for a meeting early in the morning or late at night via videoconference when you were off working abroad or listen to your crazy “million-dollar idea” and then come up with a workplan for how to design, implement, and pilot it.
Xenos was a very humble person and rarely spoke out about his personal life or even about the burdens and obstacles he felt… but, from working and laughing and spending time with him for over seven years, I came to know that he had lived one hundred lives before I met him. He had countless degrees in different, surprising subjects. He’d spent time travelling around Asia, delving deeply into his passion for the ancient, highly strategic game of Go. He had a border collie that he said was the most curious and intelligent companion. He worked for about a decade in the tree planting industry out West, moving up from tree planter to foreman, finding himself in strange adventures, meeting the love of his life, flying in helicopters, and even needing to chase down and relocate a gang of bears that had become a little too friendly. At one point, he was even in the Army. He loved to fish and camp and do obstacle course “mud runs” and geek out on board games and shows. When time was lacking for all his pursuits, Xen would work even harder, to the point of working on multiple laptops and screens at once. He was extremely well versed in politics and spent countless hours reading technical enterprise architecture texts, historical and political books, biographies… and he even had time for fantasy fiction.
Xenos also loved participating in any group adventure, discussion, or initiative, whether that was a relay race, a biking expedition, a feminist debate, a community vegetable gardening project, ziplining and caving, or finding historical figures with the same Myers-Briggs personality types as his colleagues. In that sense, building and growing our firm was both a project and ambition for him; he could have done just about anything, but he chose to build and grow together with us because relationships mattered most to him. When options presented to him as they often did, he chose us every time. We really felt like a tightly knit family.
A few weeks ago, Xen messaged our team that he had received his own traditional Japanese style Go board; a vintage item from hundred-year-old hardwood, traditional slate, and shells, used by Masters in Go tournaments in Japan lasting two days per game. These sets are no longer made, due to scarcity of materials. He had been wanting a set like this for over 35 years and was over the moon about finally having one to call his own. The pictures of the set and the story he told about his new treasure were heart warming. He had written in his usual quirky and funny style, but unbridled joy and excitement were clear as day.
On the Wednesday two days prior to his passing, Xen and I conceived of a suite of activities and meetings to propel us into the summer – virtual and tentative in person hangouts; birthday celebrations; planning calls to discuss how to relieve the pressure from those among us who were feeling overburdened; and strategic planning retreats. He lived for strategy and – whenever he did sleep – I’m sure he dreamt of new ideas and tactics. At GGA, we often jokingly and affectionately wondered if Xen was really one of the hyper intelligent androids in the movies he loved, due to his impossibly keen intelligence. He was the smartest person that I’ve ever met, and I am sure so many people would agree with me.
On the Thursday one day before his passing, Xen and I shot back and forth a few messages. I sent him some pictures of pottery I was making. For the past couple of months, I had been making him a sake set that he had “commissioned,” which would have been my first sale. I had intended to finish the set around the time he would have moved into his brand-new home. While we chatted, I complained about some computer issues I was having and, true to form, he immediately went into troubleshooting mode, giving me avenues to explore. That night – still unbeknownst to me – he started to feel breathless and was admitted to the hospital.
The last email I received from Xenos was sent from his personal account on Friday at 6:19 AM… If the timestamp on the email is correct, that means he would have just awoken from spending the night in the hospital. The email contained the packing slip for my laptop, so that I could have the information to follow up on my warranty for a service request. I can’t stop looking at that email, considering the unfathomable idea that he could be concerned for my trivial computer issue from where he was in the hospital that morning. I never heard from him again.
Xenos was very important to so many people in his life. He was a source of light, joy, and inspiration in this world. He was passionate about his ideas, often to the point of being stubborn, but he always considered alternative viewpoints and opinions. He was a voracious learner and a friend for life. He was an extremely loving father and husband. He was a colleague, collaborator, teacher, and advisor. For me, Xenos was an incomparable friend, a sort of father figure, a mentor, and a partner in business. We were building incredible plans for the future. Our last conversations brimmed with innovation, curiosity, and energy.
We are all reeling from this shocking and impossible loss. With that flash of lightning, the ground beneath our feet shifted. The world lost one of the brightest, kindest, and most genuine souls. Xenos represented the absolute best of us; he was the heart, mind and soul of the group.
As we try to move forward from the initial shock, the best we can do now is to learn from Xenos’ example, honour his memory, and carry forth his immutable flame in our thoughts and actions. We love you, Xenos, and we miss you dearly.