I found out this week that one of my first friends in college passed away about a year and a half ago. Something came up on facebook that caused me to click over to his page where I started scrolling through tags and messages that read along the lines of "still miss you... wish you were here." It was an all too familiar stomach sink as I kept scrolling down, letting the page refresh with updates that were older....until I got to the ones that Sean himself wrote from a hospital bed, back in 2012. Shortly before those were the posts from family...thanking everyone for their support. From what I could gather, Sean was in a bad car wreck and later developed a blood clot that led to his death. Sean was one of the first people I met the day I walked on to campus. The praise team met for several days before classes started, to begin learning songs and bonding as a group. I was there for vocals, Sean played bass and was the unofficial, laid back leader. I spent a lot of time with Sean, Scott (the drummer), and Nathan (the guitarist) that year... learning about video games, taking midnight ihop runs, and being a nuisance in all our religion classes. The three of them showed up to "advise" (or threaten) my date for the winter formal, taught me Irish drinking songs and spent many an evening theorizing life, music, and faith. I adored those boys.
Since we both lived in Northern Virginia, Sean became my ride back and forth to school. He let me bring my goldfish in its little travel case and get fishy water all over his car, and I would close my eyes and let him drive 90mph up the 81 corridor praying we didn't get pulled over. It was a good friendship, but then again, Sean was friends with everyone, his go with the flow spirit easy to mesh with. He introduced me to Dashboard Confessional and other emo bands... it's a bit like he was an early version of a hipster at the time....ok, maybe not.
That spring semester, Sean left Ferrum, tired of classes and the structure... I saw him on and off over the years when he would drop in to visit for a weekend. Then I graduated and moved around. Alot. But I caught back up with Sean in 2010, when I started leading worship at a church plant. Sean was working at The Soundry, a music/artist co-op space with all sorts of events and concerts that was also in the area. I played an open mic there, which Sean himself hosted, and we spent some time catching up. I even had him come play bass at the church with me, to fill in a few weeks when the other guy wasn't available. Then I moved to Colorado, back to Virginia, out to Indiana... and we didn't stay in touch. Sean was actually on my list of people to reconnect with since being back... I called Nathan (the guitarist) tonight. Back in college he was the mechanic with the long ponytail, who smoked, wore all black, and chewed tobacco...now he's settled into a marriage with a combo of his own/stepkids and is a pastor of 2 little churches in the middle of nowhere that love him dearly. He hadn't heard about Sean either. But we reminisced about the good ole days down in the mountains and the friend we both grieve.
Sean was crazy full of life. He played music, loved people and loved Jesus. I read today that somewhere in the vicinity of 300 friends came to his funeral. That's not your average funeral dinner capacity. But that's who Sean was. Far from average. Far from normal. This special brand of person. Unique. Comedic. Grounded yet a disorganized mess. A man who touched the lives of those around him. I may be a year and a half late on this, but Sean...rest in peace, you are loved.