Shawn’s passing hit me on my way to my Spanish class yesterday. I didn’t break down, but I started thinking over what he had truly meant to me during the time that I had known him. When I was a sophomore in high school, he was a senior. That was the same year that my brother, Jim Cushman, had left for the Air Force; the first time that I had to go to school without my brother around. There are many things that my brother taught me and showed me when I was younger and he has been a major role model for my life. When he left for boot camp, I didn’t have that role model anymore. And naturally when I returned to school in the fall of 2003, I sort of saw many different seniors as role models. There were many older guys who helped teach and lead me through life, though they never knew it, and I’d have to say that Shawn was one of those men.
I didn’t know him very well outside of school and we never hung out, but we did play a lot of basketball together and we related to each other quite a bit in the athletic fields. The passion and intensity he had shown for whatever game he played – even if it was just a pick-up game of basketball – taught me something about life, something that I will always remember.
Sports, like life, aren’t easy to win. They demand the best of your effort, the best of your talents, the most of your energy, the most of your focus, and every bit of your heart – even when you’ve run out of gas. I didn’t read these things in books, I didn’t take a class over them; I learned them from watching guys like Shawn take the court, the football field, and the track. And granted I’m only an outsider looking in on those sports because I didn’t play football, didn’t run track, and didn’t play much basketball, but I did play soccer, golf and baseball. What I had seen Shawn do at Voris Field or in the Taft High gym, I tried to take to Kirtsis Ball Park and to Salishan. Without words, he taught me something about dedication, commitment, and leaving a reputation – a legacy – wherever you go. Saying all of this makes me wonder what in the world could have happened to change all that, to take away that life.
Truth be told I’ve been down that road before; I nearly took my own life eight years ago. And honestly, I don’t really know what had stopped me from doing it, but I know what was pushing me towards it. It’s something dark, something incomprehensible, something terribly frightening. Within these last eight years I’ve found hope and faith in God; Someone to be the Light that I need when these dark moments cover over me. Now I can’t give you any reason or any idea why things turned out differently for Shawn. I can’t tell you what was going on in his life, in his mind, in his heart, but I can tell you that it was probably the most frightening thing he’s ever dealt with. And I can also tell you that there is no one in Lincoln City, no one in Oregon, no one in the world who had any influence on him. What influenced him, as I believe, was something outside of this world, something outside of what we can know, something very dark, and something very evil.
What are we to do after this devastation? What can we do after such a heavy loss to one’s family, one’s community, one’s friends? I could write a book about following God, but I think I would even get bored with it. Instead, I think we can all remember what we loved the most about Shawn, what we were taught by Shawn, who Shawn was to each of us, and the legacy that the real Shawn – the Shawn that we remember – has left. That’s what’ll push us forward, to dust ourselves off, and compete in this life as Shawn did in football, basketball and track. That’s how I’ll remember Shawn Phelps. God bless.