I wanted to share my brother Dan's obituary with my readers. Over the course of the past year, I've posted periodic updates about Dan's struggle with leukemia and my tussle with heart disease. Neither chore was pleasant, but my brother fought a stone-cold killer in AML. A heart attack and its follow-up seemed easier to understand and deal with. I feel that I'm in it for the long haul, thanks to the wonders of surgery, medications and devices such as the stent and the implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). It's doing its business 24/7, keeping my heart on track and standing by to kick-start my heart should it run wild. Whoa, Nellie, Whoa!
My brother's heart stopped beating today some time before 4 a.m. MST. I got one of those middle-of-the-night calls, the ones that carry bad news. Dan was gone, my Tallahassee sister Molly said. Gone. Thirteen days ago the docs gave him two to four weeks to live. They were eerily accurate.
It was only Sunday night that I sat beside his bed and watched "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" with him and his wife Nancy. They held hands while the spaghetti western played out on the bedroom TV. I was certain that I'd seen the movie at the drive-in when it came out in 1968 but the scenes reeled by and none of it seemed familiar. It's possible that I was doing something else at the drive-in -- my algebra homework, perhaps -- and I just missed the important parts.
At one point, I heard Dan snore and looked over at him. His pain meds were doing their job. He looked old and fragile. He gripped the TV control in his left hand and Nancy's hand in he other. She was sleeping the sleep of the dedicated caregiver, one who had been with Dan for most of 49 years. They met in the sixth grade at Our Lady of Lourdes grade school, where Mercy nuns tortured young minds and we came up with creative ways to return the favor. I remember seeing them hold hands way back when, one of those days when it occurred to me that they liked each other, they really liked each other.
That's a long time to really, really like someone. You might call that love. I do.
Here's the obituary I promised. It was a group effort:
Daniel Patrick "Dan" Shay, 60, was born in Denver, Colorado, and spent the majority of his life in Ormond Beach, Fla. He was an avid surfer, Harley rider, devoted husband and a loving father. He loved traveling to foreign countries (mainly to surf) and loved seeing his children experience different cultures. Dan was always planning for his next adventure.
Dan was a 1971 Seabreeze High School graduate and honorably served in the U.S. Air Force as an air traffic controller for four years. He was a civilian controller at Fort Lauderdale International Airport for 3 years and Daytona Beach Airport for 22 years. In retirement, Dan started his own business, Daytona Gear, and graduated from Embry-Riddle in 2007.
Dan is survived by his high school sweetheart and love of his life, Nancy Breslin Shay, two sons, Ryan and Connor, both of Tampa, and a daughter, Bryce, of Ormond Beach; three brothers, Michael (Chris) of Cheyenne, WY, Tom (Tani) of Palm Bay and Tim (Jen) of Ormond Beach; four sisters, Molly Shakar (Jamie), Maureen Martinez (Ralph) and Mary Powell (Neill), all of Tallahassee, and Eileen Casey (Brian), Winter Park. He also is survived by 47 nieces and nephews and numerous family members and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, Thomas and Anna Shay, and by a brother, Pat.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent for Uno Mas School, Costa Rica Church, c/o Salty Church, 221 Vining Court, Ormond Beach, FL 32176.
Dan is loved by many and will be greatly missed. Come tell your “Dan” stories at his Celebration of life on Saturday, November 23, at Salty Church at 1 p.m. There will be a paddle out at Granada approach following the service.