I had a very eventful few days. Over this past Labor Day weekend I was in Houston, Texas. I know you are probably wondering why would I go there with all the flooding and damage and relief efforts going on from the devastation that Hurricane Harvey has caused. I wasn’t there on a fun excursion believe me, my dear cousin Shawn passed away, literally a couple days after the storm hit Houston.
I flew to Dallas where my brother lives as the Houston airport hadn’t opened yet for incoming flights. I flew out Friday night, and my brother and I drove Saturday morning from Dallas to Houston, a 3- hour drive to attend Shawn’s memorial service Saturday afternoon. The waters had receded on the roads we took to Houston and in the areas around where the service was held in Sugarland, Texas. However driving around the city we could see everywhere the debris left behind by Hurricane Harvey.
My cousin Shawn was 56 years young, a warm and kind-hearted man. I grew up with Shawn and his three brothers Nando, Prem and Pradeep in Houston, Texas. Our two homes were just a few miles from each other, we spent practically every weekend at each other’s homes. That’s the beauty of having family close by, it’s easy to build life-long bonds. We all grew up together during our formative teenage years that leave life-long impressions in all of us. My cousins and I and my sisters and brother spent the better part of over 10 years in Houston with our cousins right by us. We played together, gave each other rides to school and work, celebrated many Indian and American festivals together, and occassionally even went on road trips together. We built a bond with each other that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
When I got married and moved away from Texas, Shawn and I still saw each other over the years for special occasions such as birthdays and weddings, and sometimes when Shawn was in California on business trips he would stop by and say hello.
Speaking to Shawn’s brothers I found out that Shawn had been really sick for a few months now – suffering very badly as they explained. Shawn had severe diabetes and had been on dialysis for a few years but the disease was taking a toll on his body. He eventually passed away after several months of health related complications.
Shawn’s family including his wife and kids were by his side every step of the way, and his brothers Nando and Pradeep flew down to Houston many times to see Shawn throughout the past few months. During those tough last months, Shawn’s other brother Prem, who lives in Houston, saw Shawn multiple times a week, to give Shawn company, conversation and to offer what else – guess what? Homemade Food! Shawn was a foodie, he loved flavorful vegetarian food. Shawn was a life long vegetarian. Shawn told me once he tried to eat meat but it just wouldn’t go past his throat – he had a natural aversion to it. My aunty Thanga, Shawn’s Mom loved to cook and she made amazing vegetarian food. I can see how growing up with her food can spoil you for the rest of your life.
Shawn it seems was craving his Mom’s food during the last few months – the South Indian Tamil vegetarian dishes his Mom used to make when he was growing up. Talking to Prem when I called to convey my condolences he shared with me how Shawn would ask him to bring some of the Tamil dishes he grew up with, and Prem’s wife Supriya would cook them while Prem delivered them to Shawn as they sat and chatted together. I heard from Prem that Shawn’s favorite requests were for eggplant curry and drumstick sambhar (Tamil lentil and vegetable soup) 😋.
This past June when Prem’s wife left for India for a brief holiday Shawn asked Prem to bring rasam, a South Indian tomato and lentil soup. Prem said he got in a panic as his wife was not in town. He decided to look up a recipe for rasam and made it for Shawn. Shawn created that kind of loyalty in people. Prem told me very proudly that after tasting Prem’s rasam Shawn told him it tasted outstanding! Prem also told me jokingly, “You know Dolly, the downside to learning how to make rasam is that I’m the one who is stuck making it at home now, because Supriya knows I can cook it as good as she can.”
Shawn was always full of impish conversation, kind and generous to everyone, he never said a harsh word about a single person, never held a grudge, and was always in a jovial spirit. I would tell my husband that Shawn had a mischievous smile at all times that looked like he was always up to something, you never knew if he was joking or if he was really telling it as it is. He was a good soul.
Shawn loved his family immensely. Shawn’s family including his wife of 31 years Selvi, daughter Sarah 27, and two sons Stephen 26 and Scott 15 will all miss a kind and good-hearted husband and Father.
His brothers Nando, Prem, and Pradeep, with whom he was very close, lost a big brother that will surely leave a hole in their hearts, but with the love and support of their families I am confident they will find the spirit to celebrate the memories they built with their older brother Shawn.
There are so many fond memories I have of Shawn when we were growing up together that I would love to share them all with you, but I think I have already painted a vivid picture of the loving, kind, and generous person he was.
Shawn’s Memorial Service was as beautiful as the man himself. Filled with compassionate stories from his family and an outpouring of support from his friends, the community and his co-workers. It was obvious Shawn was a very special human being.
Our love and prayers go out to Shawn’s family, may they find the strength to continue on their life’s journey and fulfill all their dreams. Shawn is in a beautiful place at peace resting next to his Mom and Dad. We will miss you Shawn.
Before I headed back to California my brother and I grabbed lunch back in Dallas and made a toast to this amazing kind-hearted man we called our cousin – Shawn!
Rest in Peace Shawn. We Will Miss You!