Because apparently I just can’t keep it together, here is the text. It should make more sense.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Job said this when everything dear to him was ripped away, and though I still haven’t had to break any pottery, I am starting to understand where he was coming from.
The “takes away” part is really hard, especially when it seems this unfair. But God didn’t promise us fair, and he also doesn’t make mistakes. He did, however, promise to work all things together for His good, even if that doesn’t mean our personal happiness. We are clinging to that, and it’s an easy thing to believe when this much good came from just thirty years of Shane. We all know how the Lord takes away. Today I want to try to capture some of the infinite ways the Lord gave, because He did give so much through Shane.
My brother was barely 30 years old. 30 years, one month, and twelve days, actually. Which, coincidentally, is exactly 11,000 days. (Thanks, Google!)
This calculation reminds me of that song from RENT, Seasons of Love. You know, five hundred twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes? You might not think of Shane when you think of musical theater, but every so often he shocked me by referencing lyrics from some obscure Broadway show. I would stare back at him blankly and think “who ARE you?” Did he just, look up lyrics and memorize them to freak me out because I love musical theater? Of course, this is the same guy who bought every Jay-Z album and yet knew every word of pretty much every Kelly Clarkson song too. Maybe he really did like Broadway. Maybe he just liked his sister.
Growing up I considered myself lucky every time Shane let me play with him (even though I usually ended up tackled on the ground in a football helmet because if I wanted to play with Shane he wasn’t exactly going to play ‘tea party’ with me.), or when he let me tag along with him on trips to Sonic in his red Corsica. Even as an adult, all I really wanted was my brother to think I was cool, and that he would want to hang out with me. Miraculously, he did seem to actually want that. When he decided to go engagement ring shopping for Cassandra, I was the one he asked to go with him. I was elated. The last time I was here visiting him in the ICU, he asked how long I was staying, and I told him I didn’t know. “How long do you want me to stay?” I asked. “New Year’s Eve,” he replied.
Shane would surprise you.
And he was hilariously surprising, especially in conversation. I think that’s what people liked best about him – his quick wit and just-irreverent-enough sense of humor. I have more off-the-wall Amazon gift cards than I can count with notes like “To Mandy, from Jesus and his Elves” attached. One time, Cassandra walked into the kitchen to a handwritten note on the fridge that said “Dear avocados, I wish you were guacamole. Love, Shane.” As she said later, how do you NOT make guacamole after that?
He taught my husband Jack a really fun trick he used when he wanted Cassandra to get up and get him something (usually food). “Just make a really loud, annoying noise over and over and over, until she finally says ‘WHAT!? WHAT can I do to make you STOP making that noise?’”
Shane was kind of a bad influence on Jack over the years. If Shane started a sentence “Hey Jack, you know what’s funny to do?” I knew I was in big trouble. But to see them talking and giggling from across the room was one of my favorite sights. I adored the relationship between Jack and Shane almost as much as I adored my own relationship with Shane.
But he would surprise you in other ways too. When I was accepted to Texas A&M, which he was already attending, he completely decorated his apartment for our visit to College Station, complete with balloons, streamers, and a giant handmade banner. On his door, he taped up a hand-written sign that said “An Aggie’s Brother Lives Here.” I walked in, looked at him, and thought “who ARE you?”
He loved generously.
I have to assume that this room is full of recipients of that generosity in some way or another. He wasn’t touchy-feely about anything, but he would bend over backwards for you if he had the opportunity. My BikeMS accounts over the years have been full of donations he sent after selling more Celtics tickets than I can count and running March Madness brackets with all the proceeds going to the MS Society on behalf of me and my mom. One time when I tweeted a picture of a KitchenAid mixer I was coveting in a store, it showed up on my doorstep two days later with the loving unsigned note “Cram it up your cram hole.” I knew immediately it was from Shane.
What probably isn’t so surprising to anybody in this room is how smart he always was. That had a lot to do with how hard he worked.
When we were kids, he sought out a part time job that combined his love of technology with his love of sports, and was hired by a Chicago company called “Stats Incorporated” to keep live stats for various sports game using the program he wrote specifically for that purpose.
He was 12 years old at the time.
From there, I watched as he worked with his high school and college sports teams, introducing them to technology that they hadn’t even considered yet and improving the way they did everything. After he graduated, he was hired at the Boston Celtics, initially for a simple IT role, but he convinced them to also let him analyze stats, write complicated programs, and run all of their technology. He left six years later and I’m guessing that anybody who worked with him would say that he left the Celtics a better place than he found it.
Most people were surprised to hear that he was leaving his dream job, but Shane had more important things to do. See, Cassandra was pregnant with Devin, and he felt it was essential that he work a schedule that would not take precious time away from his relationship with his wife and kid.
I think he got that from our dad.
“I actually couldn’t be more excited about it,” Shane wrote on Devin’s blog after his move. “Including my four years in college, I’ve had a solid ten years of being selfish, spending money on me, and not worrying much about anyone else. Myself and I had a good run. I’m happy I get to have a little person who depends on me now. I think I’ll enjoy playing with legos on the floor of a messy living room with a two year old instead of shooting a bunch of civilians with an AK47 on the Xbox. I’m sure I won’t mind having to wear headphones while I shoot civilians with an AK47 on the Xbox after my kid goes to bed. I think I’ll enjoy spending some extra time cooking healthier meals so my kid learns good eating habits instead of just grabbing fast food. I might not mind going a couple years without sleep having a baby in the house.
On Monday, I started my new job in Colorado Springs. I left my house at 8:18 AM. I walked in the door to my office at 8:29 AM. I didn’t spend those eleven minutes feeling sorry for myself about not getting to do things that were fun for me that day. I spent them thinking about how awesome it would be to have an extra two hours every single day that I can spend with my family. So maybe I gave up the “dream job” to move to Colorado. That’s fine with me. Colorado in itself is great, but it gives me the best opportunity to make what’s fun for me and what’s fun for my family align themselves. That’s what makes moving to Colorado the perfect thing for us right now. Well, that and the season ski pass to Vail.
Shane loved his kid. Man did he love his kid. It almost surprised me how good he was with Devin immediately because he was never big on babies or kids. But he really did adore Devin. I rarely saw him not on the floor with the kid, or throwing him in the air, or blowing in his face to make him laugh or making crazy noises at him. He was so excited to watch him grow and learn, and every milestone for Devin was a milestone for Shane. Devin and Cassandra were Shane’s dream come true.
And obviously, Cassandra was the only person in the world that Shane loved more than Devin.
The way that Shane and Cassandra were both built individually fit together perfectly. Sometimes I would look at the two of them together and think “Wow. God made that so right.” I don’t really need to elaborate on this since I know everybody here understands exactly what I’m talking about, but I love the way Shane described it in a blog post a few years ago.
“I am pretty sure I’ve said this before, maybe to Cassandra, maybe to other people; I don’t know I haven’t kept track, but I’ve said it. I’m lucky to be with Cassandra, and it’s for this overwhelming fact of nature: Cassandra dislikes a given random stranger more quickly and decisively than most anyone else. They don’t have to speak, they don’t have to do anything, and many times they don’t even have to be within 50 miles of her. I doubt it’s a personality flaw, because most of the time she’s right. The average random person is an idiot. It’s a bit of a fluke in the universe that I got in good with her, but I have a theory on how it happened. We were assigned to work in a group. We both agreed to work together, and then another idiot jumped in and asked to work with us. All of the sudden, I wasn’t the irritating person, and I got temporary immunity as long as we were in a group with someone much dumber than either one of us. By the time we were done with the project, she had decided I wasn’t worthless. So thanks, Computer Science Idiot. I couldn’t have done it without you. Anyway, that brings us back to today. Cassandra got the same look on her face when the girl made the oatmeal “joke” and laughed to herself while her boyfriend rolled his eyes as she got when the Computer Science Idiot invited himself to work with us. The “I’d kill you if it wasn’t illegal” look. The “Are you serious” look. It’s classic. It makes me happy every time I see it. These are the good things about marriage that they don’t tell you ahead of time. I would have loved to have worked “Will you both feel the same utter disdain for idiot-strangers?” into the vows. And, as I found out this morning, after almost two years of being married, I don’t even have to see her face anymore to know it’s coming. I just have to hear an idiot.”
Of course, she is also incredibly kind and capable, and I have no doubt that she’ll raise his kid beautifully. She was good for him. She is good for Devin. She is good for me. She is one of the many, many ways that the Lord gave, and I thank God for her every day.
I know Shane did too. In fact, he told me that one day when we were walking through Target, shopping for essentials at the new house.
“What kind of laundry detergent do you use?” I asked.
“No idea,” Shane replied. “Cassandra does laundry.”
“What kind of dishwasher detergent?”
“No idea. Cassandra does dishes.”
We went through cleaning products and household items and each time he had no idea. Finally, I said “So she just does EVERYTHING for you?”
He looked back at me and exclaimed “Yes! DON’T YOU THINK I KNOW HOW LUCKY I AM!?”
He didn’t want to leave them alone, but at the same time, he was looking forward to what was coming next. From the moment he was diagnosed a month ago, he didn’t seem worried or scared for a moment about death. In his matter-of-fact, straightforward way, Shane was sure about his faith. He knew that his next step would include looking into the face of God in a place we can only imagine. He knew he wouldn’t be the one waiting for us. He knew there were better things in store for him.
And so we are taking comfort in that today, and every day, and every minute, and sometimes every suffocating second. My buddy is gone from this Earth, but I will play and feast and joke with him again. I am sure of it. I will look forward to it every day of my life.
And that’s the very best thing the Lord gave.