In the passing of 2013, many welcome the New Year after reflection of the last. We may review the challenges and situations we have faced, how we have handled them, and how we may grow from these experiences. We may remember what to be thankful for and most importantly, how we can give back.
In giving back, Garret “The Sickness” Sahene not only practiced this in life, he is giving back from another place, through the memory and the lessons from the story of his existence here with us.
Let us give tribute to the Life of Garret “The Sickness” Sahene, as In Ya Face MMA’s December 2013 – Fighter of the Month.
I first heard about Garret Sahene early last year, through a friend and trainer, Josh Erdner. Josh would say from time to time “I was rolling with Garret yesterday at the barn and we beat the hell out of each other.” “Who’s Garret?” was my initial question. “Only the most talented fighter I’ve ever met.” Josh and Justin Erdner trained and cornered him since he was 16. They took him to see an amateur record of 7-2.
I wondered why I haven’t seen Garret fight over the course of the year, but had the opportunity to roll with him once at Fight Club Pittsburgh. He could have rolled with some of the top athletes there that day, but instead offered to help me out. Although my ground experience is limited, rolling with Garret was unlike rolling with any other. It was flowetry. On a level I have yet to understand.
Later I found that he was having addiction issues that recently led to his unfortunate and premature exit of this world. At the young age of 23, he was known for his heart and his talent. His passing was an upset, not only to his family and friends, but also to the MMA community.
At the memorial with Josh, witnessing the pain and suffering of his close family, friends and fellow fighters was beyond sad. Pastor Blaine Workman, who led the memorial, had known Garret since he was a child, and beautifully illustrated Garret’s character. He mentioned his observation of Garret’s fight name, “The Sickness”, and implicitly compared it to how it applied to both Garret’s battles in the cage, and his battles with addiction.
Regarding Garret’s raw talent as an athlete, Pastor Blaine told us of his witness to one of Garret’s middle-school soccer games at Eden Christian Academy. He saw Garret do a move that was jaw dropping for anyone, let alone for his age at that time. On the field, Garret sprinted to “save” a ball that was clearly going out of bounds. While Garret was in mid-fall, he did a sideways scissor kick to the ball, then plummeted hard to the ground. He jumped up immediately, as if it never happened and continued the game. Pastor Blaine’s reaction was, “Wow, did you see that?!”
Garret was FEARLESS. His Aunt, Amy Will, shared that he was “Tough, but not tough to love.” She told a story where as a young boy he was told to be careful and not to fall into his Gramma’s pond. When she looked over, Garret was walking into the pond…neck deep, and smiling.
Garret was a skilled athlete and loved dirt-bike riding, skate-boarding, snow-boarding; any sport with an opportunity to push the limits.
One of Garret’s good friend’s shared at the memorial service, “If we were driving in the car, and you told Garret to make a right, he’d make a HARD LEFT!” – Everyone laughed and nodded.
He had a rebellious, yet fun personality with a heart of gold. He was also downright silly. He once hijacked his girlfriend’s hair extensions and tossed on a bandana and called himself “Joe Dirt…”.
During the memorial, we learned more about the depth of Garret’s struggles, his insight and the poetic end to “The Sickness” within. In life, he was a creative as a martial artist and an artist. Just before his passing, during a visit with his Grandparents, he signed the original tattoo drawing that he did on his own leg, (opposite one that read “Live Fast, Die Never” on his other leg.) He gave it to his Gramma, whom he loved and had a very close bond with. She hugged him and said, “Garret, I hope this isn’t the last one you make for me.” To her dismay, it was.
In death, his “compassionate soul” returned home. A metaphoric reflection, of where life’s struggles guided him to seek solace in submitting to his addictions and turning to spirituality. He had faith; and in the weeks before his passing studied it ardently. On the day Garret passed, his Mom found his bible opened and faced down, on the couch. Psalm 19 was bracketed and verse 12 was underlined in pen, “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.” Upon hearing this, I was overcome with the chills.
Garret was indeed aware that he had a problem and asked for and received help. As many of you may have witnessed or experienced, addiction can be a losing and deadly battle.
“Garret came to us and admitted he had an issue and needed help. His brother, grandparents, friends and coaches all supported his efforts to get and stay healthy. These drugs are highly addictive. It isn’t about “partying for fun.” People need to understand that these drugs change your brain chemistry and cause intense cravings that you have to manage for the rest of your life.
He participated in 4 rehab programs over 4 years intending to win the addiction battle. He was keenly aware of his opponent, fought daily to stay in control and developed strategies to “beat it”. He won some battles, but unfortunately, ultimately lost the war. His addiction didn’t define who he was as a person, or as a fighter. He was a compassionate soul. He’d give anyone the shirt off his back, and defend anyone needing help.
He always said “all I want to do is fight- that’s it.” In the gym, he could put his focus on something healthy. He loved the fight, and the camaraderie. He was fearless, but loving.” – Pamela Landefeld, Garret’s mom.
Garret’s friend and coach, Josh, offered to answer the following questions:
In Ya Face MMA: Can you tell me about when you first met Garret?
Josh Erdner: Garret came to the barn for the first time when he was 16. The barn, for people that don’t know, is basically a place where my brother, Justin, and I would train fighters and workout just because we love it. Free to all. Lots of guys came in and out of there to train over the years. We got in the basement level of my parents barn, poured concrete floors, laid down mats and built a cage. I’m not sure who told us about Garret, but someone said there was a really tough kid who was looking for a place to train – I said bring him.
The first time Garret came to spar, I was blown away by his natural talent and athleticism. I remember whaling on him and he just kept coming. That’s something you don’t see and kids that young. From that day, he always showed up and continued to get tougher and tougher. He was such a nice kid. He went out of his way to clean the mats and put away gear every time he was there. Again, this is something you don’t see from everyone.
IYF: What was he like to coach? How was he as a fighter?
JE: Garret was an amazing fighter to corner and coach. If I told him to do something at any point of a fight, he would instantly do it and do it well. It was like having my own badass, rock ‘em – sock ‘em robot to control in the cage. I have never cornered anyone that even comes close to how well he listened and executed our game plan. He was truly focused and fearless every time he stepped into the cage.
IYF: What was he like as a person, as a friend?
JE: As a person, Garret was very free spirited and happy go lucky. He was always down for anything. Garret was simply fun to be around. He was much more intelligent and deep then most people know. We spent countless hours talking about everything from addiction, to girls, to God. He had very deep and insightful views. He was a tremendous fighter and a close friend. I miss him greatly.
InYaFaceMMA.com: Were Garret’s parents athletes? Siblings?
Pamela Landefeld (mom): Garret came from a whole family of athletes.
IYF: What kind of sports was he into as a kid?
PL: He loved Wrestling, Soccer, Baseball, Basketball, Skateboarding, Snowboarding, Skiing
IYF: How did he get into MMA?
PL: Loved wrestling and martial arts. Fearless and loved strategy and competition
IYF: Can you tell me about your experience with Garret’s struggles and what you have learned from these struggles?
PL: Addiction is serious business. These drugs (pain-killers, heroin, meth, anti-anxiety meds) are highly addictive and change our brains. It happens in a moment and then takes a lifetime to manage. The impact is huge. It’s not worth the first try.
IYF: What message do you have for those in a similar situation? What advice could you give to help them?
PL: Seek help for addiction issues. Don’t be embarrassed or wait. Often, there are no second chances; these drugs are lethal. They destroy your brain and body. Don’t underestimate the impact they have on everything important to you. Garret did not plan to leave us that day. He thought he had more time to fight it, and planned to win.
Garret “The Sickness” Sahene Obitutary
Garret Kendrick Sahene, 23, of Marshall Township. Garret peacefully passed away too soon, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. He was a beloved son of Pamela and Jay Landefeld and Lee and Dawn Sahene; brother and best friend of Dustin; half-brother of Jackson; stepbrother of Jacob and Jared; grandson of Ray and Marlene Kendrick, Emanuel and Linda Sahene and the late Arlene and George Bravo; nephew of Amy and Kurt Will, Kim Kendrick, Kathy Dean, Shane and Christina Sahene, Kathy and Ernie Redinger, Holly and Frank Chianese, Dana and Seth Ross; and cousin of Austin, Brandon, Madison, Ahny, Cory, Aaron, Jacob, Hannah, Shane, Shilo, Lea and Violet. He will be sadly missed by all, including his friends, fellow MMA fighters and his dog, Geno.
My thoughts are with the family and friends of Garret “The Sickness” Sahene. May his story help those who are experiencing similar struggles. Many thanks to Pamela Landefeld, Garret’s mom, and Josh Erdner, his friend and MMA coach, for their participation and contribution to this article. – Jaime Chesney
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