A father remembers: Sean Shay talks about his son Brendan, who died last week in a tragic accident
Published 1:05 am, Thursday, April 15, 2010
Sean Shay of Darien remembers his son Brendan as an outgoing kid with a good sense of humor, who loved his family and friends.
Brendan died last week in Stamford Hospital following what police have called a tragic accident. He would have turned 20 on Monday, April 19.
"What made him special?" Sean asked on Wednesday. "A million things. He was definitely outgoing. But when he was growing up and playing soccer, baseball, hockey and track, he really wasn't a stand-out, star player. Frankly he couldn't care less if he was the star. All he wanted to do was just be with his buddies and have fun. He knew his friends were playing so he'll play and he wanted to have fun with them. That's all."
His easy wit and ever-present smile helped him gain and keep friends easily, his father said. And he had a lot of lifelong friends in the community, as well as new friends from Curry College in Massachusetts, where he was finishing his sophomore year.
"What made him so special was, I think, his sincerity. He was compassionate. He was just an honest kid. He was the one that people wanted to be around," Sean said. "I wouldn't go as far as to say he would walk into a room and light it up, but he was just on the happy side."
Brendan's love of living was central in everything he did, his father said. He was currently enrolled in a general studies program at college, but had been working on applications to transfer schools the weekend he died.
"He never really said, `I've got to be a doctor,' `I've got to be a marine biologist.' He liked snowboarding. He liked living for today, and he didn't really think much for the future," Sean said. "So if he were going to a school, he wanted to go in Colorado, where it was closer to the mountains, and he could go snowboarding."
And people gravitated toward his honest, fun-loving spirit, according to Sean.
"At the wake and the funeral, a lot of the kids from Curry College came down. And in fact, every single teacher he had at Royle; from each of his classes at the middle school and high school, he had a teacher come. Including some professors from Curry who came down," Sean said.
"When I stood up to give a speech, I couldn't believe how many people there were. There was standing room only, the balconies were packed, a bunch of guys from school and friends from over the years were just all standing in the room were you come in also," he said. "Some of his buddies flew in from California, Ohio, Wisconsin, where they were going to college. They made a point to be here, a lot of them, which was unbelievable."
While friends were a very important part of Brendan's life, so was his family, Sean said. Sean comes from a large family, and there are 17 cousins in Brendan's generation, including Brendan and his two younger brothers.
"Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday because all our cousins and family would come over to our house, and on Christmas Eve, we'd go up to my grandmother's house and the same thing," Sean said. "That's when he saw the rest of the family. He liked Christmas Day like any kid, but was really fond of those days because he really enjoyed those times with the family.
"And when we'd have these family gatherings, that's what he loved the best. He would rarely bring his own personal friends to these, because he said he could spend time with his friends any time, but only at these times could he play with his first cousins," Sean said.
The immediate Shay family is tightly knit too, according to Sean. All five members would sit down to eat dinner together at 6 o'clock every evening.
"Dinner time was our time, and he was a great eater," Sean said.
"He loved all different kinds of food. His grandmother was a gourmet cook, so we grew up on real good French cooking, and his aunt owns a restaurant in Greenwich, where he worked for a summer. He liked really good food; was definitely a connoisseur when it comes to that. He ate everything from escargot to great cheeses, and he liked it. That's how he was raised," Sean said. "He wasn't just a chicken-nuggets and hot-dogs kid."
It's been tough for Sean in the week and a half since his eldest son passed away, he said.
"One of the best days of my life was the day he was born, and clearly the worst day of my life was the day he died.
"It was tough. You don't think you're going to bury your boy and it was just sudden so tragic. It's beyond belief, the agony. I wouldn't want to wish it on anybody," Sean said.
But he and his family are getting through it, with the help of their friends and family.
"His life was taken, but part of mine went with it. But we're all happy to have had him in our lives, and we're all going to move on, and there won't be a day, or a minute or an hour that goes by that we're not thinking of him, but it was better to have him for 20 years than not to have him at all," Sean said.