The catharsis that comes from putting pen to paper is indescribable. It seems, however, that the last few things I’ve written that truly came from the heart were in response to the passing of someone we knew. I’m not happy about that, but I don’t know how to react other than to get my thoughts down in writing as an attempt to give them some degree of permanence.
The relationships we create and foster in our lives influence us in a myriad of ways that we may not see or realize until later. I would like to share with you, dear reader, the little that I knew of a great guy who lost his battle with cancer today.
I met my wife in Florida in the early 2000s. When we started dating, her best friend Laura had been married for several years to her husband Shawn. As the natural progression goes among friends, we set up a double date so I could meet Shawn.
From that first double-date, I found Shawn to be a quiet, no-nonsense guy and I liked him. I liked the fact that he didn’t beat around the bush and said exactly what he thought, measuring his words carefully. Luckily for me, we got along right away and that made it easier for us to hang out pretty regularly. Grilling out at the house, eating out at restaurants around the Jacksonville area, and family events, we saw each other pretty regularly for several years.
Shawn served with the Clay County Sheriff’s Department for nearly twenty years in countless positions to include homicide detective, child crimes investigator, regular patrol, SWAT commander, and supervisory lieutenant. During the time that we were hanging out together frequently, Shawn invited me to his “office” several times. It was obvious to me that he loved what he did as a career, and he felt that he was truly making a difference in the Clay County community (judging by the outpouring of support on social media, it would appear that same community reciprocates that feeling).
Over one of our joint family dinners one Saturday night, he asked me out-of-the-blue if I would be interested in attending an autopsy with him in the morning; a young man had committed suicide and although the cause of death was pretty obvious, he still needed to check the box as a homicide detective and close the case officially. Realizing that I would most likely never be asked that question again unless I myself went into law enforcement, I said yes. In addition to the autopsies that morning (we ended up observing several), he asked me to ride shotgun on a couple “ride-alongs” with him.
Once again, as a guy not in law enforcement at the time, I was fascinated and felt honored that he thought enough of me to invite me with him to work. From domestic violence calls, high speed chases, cocaine busts, and even some teenagers with marijuana, the two shifts that I accompanied Shawn were needless to say, very interesting. Even during some high-stress situations, Shawn was as cool as a cucumber, maintaining that soft-spoken demeanor. I was impressed, no doubt about it.
When my wife and I got married, Shawn spent all evening at our wedding video-recording the events, asking guests for little snippets about my wife and I, and every so often he would slow down long enough to hang with Laura and enjoy the wedding himself. Looking through our pictures today, it’s not surprising at all that he didn’t take center stage in our wedding, as you can see in the pictures posted here. He always struck me as a “doer”, not a “talker”.
Eventually, my job took us out of the state of Florida and transplanted us to Arizona. As it so often happens in long distance relationships (and even more so among guys I guess), the communications became less and less, although on subsequent visits back to Florida, we would see each other and enjoy some food and drinks together. He would ask how my work was treating me and I would ask the same.
Shawn was a fighter and put others first, both in work AND life. One of the first things he did when we visited him at the hospital in Arizona was to ask Laura to get us all some water. As he was in his hospital bed and dealing with the aggressive cancer, he wanted US to be comfortable.
Very rarely does one get a chance to say the words to someone that they want to before they’re gone. I know in my case, I have never had the opportunity. Although Shawn drifted in and out of lucidity when we saw him yesterday, I was fortunate enough to tell him how much his advice and long distance friendship had meant to me. I was able to thank him for his input on my career choices and letting me tag along with him. Although he and I didn’t have anywhere near the level of friendship that my wife and Laura do (lifelong best friends, those two), his loss will be felt for a very long time.