This is my niece Shannon. On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, she suffered a brain aneurysm. And on Wednesday, October 12, 2016 she passed away.

Like many families these days, I was never very close geographically to where my sister, Lori, and Shannon lived in Virginia. So I can’t say I really knew Shannon. But I can say that I know a lot about her.

Shannon and I shared a milestone date that I will always remember and that has bound us together in a funny way. She was born on the day I took my last exam at VA Tech, the last day of my undergraduate college career. THAT was quite a day!

Lori and Shannon, 1983 or so.

While Shannon was growing up, I was moving around the country. First living in Colorado, then Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Michigan again. Though I was far away, it wasn’t so far that I couldn’t keep up. She was, after all, my sister’s daughter. And my Mom’s treasured Grandbaby. So while I was not close, I was always in touch. We’d see each other once in a while, too, especially when I could travel quite easily from Pennsylvania for visits during that period.


Mark And Shannon around 1988 at Kill Devil Hills NC
Mark and Shannon around 1989 at Kill Devil Hills NC

I’ve never been much for formalities, so when Shannon called me ‘Uncle Mark’, I would reply, ‘Yes, Niece Shanny?’ It was a little game we played that gave us one special thing between us, I think. I last saw Shannon and Lori at Thanksgiving around 2007 or 2008. They came up to my friends’ house in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains for the day. It was special because both of my boys were there, too. Cousins! Of course at this time Shannon was quite a bit older than Mitchell and Bret. But it fulfilled a dream that I had always held close. That we could be together as a big happy family.

Shannon was one who, like many of us, chose to be an organ donor. My family’s loss and grief is tempered by the knowledge that many other families know joy and hope that is given them by Shannon’s thoughtful designation. Lori was given the burden of letting her baby go so that others may live. I am so proud of both of them for the courage they’ve shown us.

I write this tribute for myself mostly, I think. I won’t say I wish I had done things differently. We all live our lives the best way we know how. It reminds me, though, that life is precious and fleeting. We are here one moment and gone the next. So I am reminded that we must cherish those that we love. And tell them so.

While expressions of sympathy are welcome and appreciated, that is not why I am writing this. I want this few moments, as you read this, to allow you to reflect on who is important in your lives. And give you some time to think about how dear you hold them.