well done, my friend. well done...
My friend Shawn is boisterous. When I’ve described him as such, he’s thrown a sturdy arm around my shoulders, tugged me in close, and said, “Just tell ‘em the truth. I’m loud!” It’s the truth. Shawn is loud. Like sirens sounding, cymbals crashing, and bombs exploding, all at the same time. He doesn’t quietly enter a room and take a seat in the corner, hoping to melt into the shadows. He kicks in the door, throws open his arms, tosses back his head, and trumpets his arrival.
The trouble with describing Shawn simply as loud, however, is that it’s not quite a powerful enough adjective. Everything about him is emphatic and rambunctious. His personality is powerful. His laughter is booming. His curiosity is intense. His faith in God is immense. His compassion is emphatic. His love is encompassing. Nothing about him is minute. Shawn is a crescendo.
My dear friend is the very definition of ‘larger than life,’ but on Tuesday afternoon, I’ll be attending his funeral.
I learned last Thursday Shawn died when another friend phoned at one of those early morning hours that compels you to say "What's happened?" rather than "Hello” when you answer. Grief rushed through me so quickly I had to hand the phone to my husband so the news could be repeated to him. My tears, instant and fierce, left me gasping for air and incapable of speaking, although I think my hope was that if I didn't have to say the words out loud, they wouldn't be true. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. One of my very best friends, someone I was honored to know for more than 10 years, was dead at 44 of a heart attack.
Shawn and I met at church. Curious and searching, he’d been invited to worship at the same church my husband and I had recently started attending for much the same reason. Less than a year later, Shawn and his wife, my husband and I, and a handful of other couples gathered around a dining room table, filled with ideas and eagerness to plant a new church. I was still a very new Christian, and so was Shawn, but his passion for learning and serving was contagious. The light that shined in his eyes and fueled his heart was forever intense, and it spilled into the community. He was never invasive, but if your heart was burdened, you knew after meeting Shawn that there was someone praying for you. He knew I’ve not been a particularly happy person for the last several months, and on a recent Sunday morning, during worship, I looked across the gym where we hold church and saw him staring in my direction. He was stabbing the air with his index finger, and I casually glanced behind me to see whose attention he was trying to capture. After several more covert glances, I realized he was pointing at me. When he had my attention, he shaped his fingers into a heart, held them to his chest, and smiled. The gesture, simple and pure, made me cry. The last time we spoke, he asked me if there was anything he could do to be of help to me. That's the essence of who Shawn was.
Shawn and I shared a mutual love of 80s music and outrageous comedies. “Our friendship was built on Madonna and the Messiah!” he’d say. “Where would we be without prayer and The Princess Bride?” I’d ask. Our phone calls often involved him serenading me with a song we both loved (far too many to count based on the number of mix CDs he created for me), or reciting a scene or six from one of our favorite movies before our outrageous laughter forced me to beg for mercy. Sometimes after such fits, Shawn would have to hang up and then call back a few minutes later because he’d forgotten the point of his original call. Last Tuesday, I called to tell him IFC was airing Monty Python and the Holy Grail later that evening, and we immediately unleashed as King Arthur and the Black Knight ("Look, you stupid bastard, you've got no arms left!" "Yes I have!" "Look!" "It's just a flesh wound."). I watched the movie this weekend and it felt very quiet among the pieces of my broken heart.
I realize none of you know my friend Shawn, although if one or two of you did, I'd not be surprised. It might be a cliché, but the man never knew a stranger. Once, a group of six of us went out to dinner, and between the salads and the entrees, we had to push three additional tables together and add eight more chairs to our intimate setting because Shawn knew – or just knew of – half the people in the restaurant. When I first got to know him, I selfishly wished to be his sole best friend, but there's a reason why his funeral will be held at a church that seats more than 800 people. Shawn would say he was a black hole that sucked us all in, but the truth is, he was a bright sun the rest of us orbited around.
My heart has been raw and so very heavy since I learned of Shawn’s death. I can’t stop thinking of his wife and two sons and the awesome love they shared. I feel cheated of more time with him here. Walking into church today and not having his voice be the first thing I heard was jolting. I’m profoundly sad, and moved to tears at the slightest thought, but a faith I credit him for bolstering means I know my friend wouldn’t want me, or anyone else who loves him, to feel so sad for long. I know he wouldn’t have chosen to leave his family, but he’s happy and healed where he is now, and I firmly believe he kicked open the gates and cheered his arrival.
And secretly, I hope by now he’s gotten God to join in on a Python riff (“Every time I try to talk to someone, it’s ‘sorry this’ and ‘forgive me that’ and ‘I’m not worthy…’”). I'd expect nothing less.
Labels: have fun stormin' the castle