Let’s give Shawn the standing ovation he deserves

Several of Shawn’s closest friends paid tribute to him during his memorial service. Jason McGraw grew up with Shawn, childhood friends born weeks apart from one another. Jason reflects on their relationship below.

By Jason McGraw

The first memory I have of Shawn is from 1986. We were in Pre-school. The uniform was a burgundy cardigan and a plaid tie. Just two men trying to make our way in a kiddy world. Our favorite pastime was getting the girls in our class so riled up at recess that they would chase us around the playground. They never caught us, of course, due to our freakish athleticism…. We lived the fast life then.


Late nights, chasing girls, hopped up on apple juice. Living graham cracker to graham cracker. Those were the days…

It’s difficult to think that it would only be 28 years later, just a few weeks after both of our 32nd birthdays that I would form my last memory with Shawn.

I thought for sure that in that moment, standing next to his bed, that I would be filled with memories of playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Shawn, his older brother Kris and my older brother David. The four of us used to adventure all the places that young boys are supposed to go: the sewer, the woods, the streets. Shawn always played Raphael because Shawn gets what Shawn wants while the rest of us took turns playing Donatello, Michelangelo, and Leonardo.


If not our childhood adventures, then in that final moment I knew I would think of the McGraw-Kuykendall family dinners or our shared vacations, or me and Shawn’s absolute annihilation of the Fairfax U6 soccer league.

But none of that came to mind…

Standing next to his bed for the last time I just knew I’d think of playing indoor, full contact, on your knees only, nerf basketball. Yes, that struggle was real.

And when it wasn’t basketball, it was taking penalty kicks on each other in the Kuykendall’s basement. But not the basement that most of you know. I’m talking about the basement before the basement. The one with the beam in the middle of the room that doubled as the penalty spot, which was right next to the room full of all of Kurt’s old soccer gear. We used to rummage through all his old uniforms until we found one we liked and then we wore it and pretended it was the World Cup finals.

Shawn and I always wore the silver jersey because we wanted to be like Walter Zenga.

When it wasn’t penalty kicks, it was street hockey where Shawn always conned me into playing goalie. And when it wasn’t street hockey it was two on two football.

But no, none of that came to mind either.


Maybe it was just too long ago and I couldn’t remember in such tense circumstances. But surely, even then I would think of our college trips between James Madison and American University, or our Halloween adventures as the Hoosiers basketball team, the German badminton team, or the Mighty Ducks.

Yes, we did the flying V through the streets of DC. And yes, people loved it.

Or even better, I’d think of when Shawn dressed up like Ace Ventura and was walking up to random people all night saying, “Hi, Ace Ventura. Pet detective. I’m looking for Ray Finkle.” And then he’d flash a homemade Pet Detective badge.

I think Shawn loved Halloween because it gave him permission to be the most extreme version of himself.


But in that moment, standing next to Shawn’s hospital bed, none of that came to mind.

As I stood there with my wife, we each grabbed one of Shawn’s hands to pray. With sadness overwhelming me, I was very surprised at the emotion that emerged when I finally managed to open my mouth to pray. It was gratitude.

32 years of experiences and all I wanted to say was, “Thank you.”…

I’m certainly aware that I’m not the only one who was thankful for Shawn so I asked many of Shawn’s friends to tell me what they would thank Shawn for if they had this moment.

I’d like share a few of them with you.


– Thank you for showing us it is Ok to get giddy about the little things in life-like ice cream, a catchy boy band song, or a deep v neck cardi.

– Thank you for taking a selfie in a bathtub while eating a drumstick and proving that your ridiculousness indeed has no limits!


– Thank you for your loving nature, your playfulness, and your left foot. And your right foot. And your ability to use both together so skillfully on the soccer field and the dance floor.

– Thank you for your inappropriate humor and reminding us not to sweat the small stuff.

– Thank you for deeeec, honey nut serio, taco beezy, wendinho’s, booooooger king, struggle muffin sandwich, bird calls, baila baila, nubs, donk, JK rowling, kerri struggs, , siiiiick, baaazilly, pound pound, knuckle touch… thank you for being cover free since 2003, for yums in my tums, for looking a redonkulous 12 out of 10, and for always wearing the tightest of toight pants.

– Thank you for making us laugh and teaching us that it is possible not to care what others think. In a good way 🙂

– Thank you for the love, and support, and encouragement you gave all of us through your endless friendship.

– Thank you for your unconditional love, for your forgiving spirit, for your thoughtfulness, and your loyalty.

– Thank you for inspiring us, for filling our lives with joy, and reigniting our passion to live.

– Thank you seeking out the best in all of us and encouraging us to be better today than we were yesterday.

– Thank you for your honesty and transparency and authenticity. You helped us find out who we are by allowing us to all watch you be so comfortable with who you are.

– Thank you for your selflessness.

– Thank you for bringing so many people together through your infectious sense of humor.

– Thank you that no matter who we were or what we did, you never gave up on any of us.

– Thank you for teaching us that doing unto others as you would have them do to you is not just a principle; it’s a way of life.

– Thank you for teaching us how to be bold, how to never stop exploring and growing, and how to relentlessly pursue life with wit and zest.

– Thank you for teaching us what true courage is.

– Thank you for pushing us deeper in our relationship with Jesus.

– Thank you for being a dreamer and helping us dream big.

– Thank you for teaching us to trust God, to rest in God’s sovereign arms every step of the way, to fully live in the moment and to love life through any circumstance.

– Thank you for changing our perspective on life, and despite your comical self-indulgence, thank you for showing us that it’s ok to care more about others than we do ourselves.


– Thank you for having a faith that never wavered, never wondered, never doubted, and always pointed us back to the cross.

– Thank you for proving that no matter how tragic they are, our circumstances will NEVER define us.

– Thank you for teaching us that our response to our worst circumstances is our choice.

– Thank you, for in your circumstance, when you had every right to choose sadness, for choosing joy.

– When you had every right to choose despair, thank you for choosing hope.

– When you had every right to choose bitterness, thank you for choosing laughter.

– And when you had every right to choose hate, thank you for choosing love.

It all of sudden made sense to me why my bedside thoughts were those of gratitude. In that moment I couldn’t help but say, “Lord I am so thankful for this man. I’m so thankful God that you would love this man so much that would you send your one and only Son Jesus to die on a cross so that in situations just like this, it is not the end. Thank you that Shawn will spend eternity in Heaven, and that we will be reunited again.”


Shawn was so uniquely created for such a specific purpose and we were all witness to it. I hope you know that the God who created Shawn for such a purpose, created you for one too. And I hope that you will honor Shawn with me by pursuing your purpose as relentlessly and as lovingly and gracefully as Shawn did.

And we stand here, Shawnie, amazed at your life well-lived. And a job well done. Would you join me in giving Shawn a well deserved standing ovation as a statement with our appreciation and thanks?


One response to “Let’s give Shawn the standing ovation he deserves”

  1. Jason, I was so glad to see this posted. When I hard your words, I though they were perfect and I feared they would be lost. I will probably quote this but I will NEVER be able to pronounce the paragraph that begins “Thank you for deeec….” I was so impressed when you said that at the celebration~

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: