When I bought airline tickets to Texas for Christmas break, I didn't know that I would be attending two funerals. One of those was for one of my longest friends, Sean. I was asked by his mother to speak at his memorial service in Texas; he had had a funeral service in Kentucky earlier this week. After scrambling to change my flight and enduring a few sleepless nights, I sat down to try to figure out how to do one of my favorite people justice. This is what I came up with.
“Fourteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds.” Those were the first words out of Sean’s mouth after I gave my first real talk in sacrament meeting from this very podium. He greeted me right there. He didn’t say, “good job,” or “I enjoyed your talk,” like everyone else. Just, “I thought you’d be interested.” I never asked him to time me. But Sean, knowing me as well as he knew me, knew that that was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to hear and, in his own way, he gave me the highest of compliments. It was simple, but it meant a lot to me, and I’ve found that that is just one of Sean’s many defining characteristics: showing others that he cares through his small and simple acts.
I’ve known Sean for as long as I can remember. In my earliest memories of Easter egg hunts, Sunday school, pool parties, or multi-family campouts, he is there. I would bring some of my junior high friends to dances sponsored by our church, and they all had crushes on him after the first night. As we grew older, we sang duets, built a hovercraft, led our high school marching band, took a two-day roadtrip; I have even shaved his legs.
Sean was, without doubt, talented. Our senior year of high school, Sean was selected to perform with the All-State 5A Concert Band. Let me just paint this picture for you: “All-State is the highest honor a Texas music student can receive. . . . [S]tudents are selected through a process that begins with over 64,000 students from around the state vying for this honor to perform in one of 15 ensembles. . . . This competitive process begins throughout the state in auditions hosted by 28 . . . Regions. Individual musicians perform selected music for a panel of judges who rank each instrument. . . . From this ranking, a select group of musicians advances from their Region to compete against musicians from other Regions. . . . The highest-ranking musicians judged . . . qualify to perform in a[n] . . . All-State music group. . . .”
Sean was chosen to perform with a group that included 10 trombone players. 10. Out of 64,000 who auditioned. His talent was undeniable. After high school, Sean traded in his trombone for a guitar. From my perspective, he picked it up instantly. He was naturally good at almost everything. In fact, he was so naturally good, that it sometimes really irritated others (namely, me). I recently found a letter that Sean wrote to me years ago that illustrates this exact point. In his words:
“Speaking of procrastinating, remember in high school when I would not do stuff and procrastinate and then everything would work out ok and you would get mad at me for it? or when you would demand to see my grades and I would resist, but when you finally forced me to show you, you’d get mad if mine wasn’t worse than yours? I even remember one time when you got mad even though your grade was better!”
I’d like to challenge Sean on the validity of that last statement! But I do remember being competitive in every class that we had together -- which was almost all of our classes: algebra, trigonometry, world history, chemistry, jazz band, physics . . . I eventually dropped out of calculus and decided to study linguistics (and I begrudgingly add that Sean became fluent in Spanish and I didn’t), but Sean went on to pursue a degree in chemistry, after which he began a promising career at L’Oreal.
Smart and successful as he was, Sean was definitely not all work and no play. In fact, those who knew him best might say that he was all play. It’s hard to make it through a talk about Sean without mentioning one of his all-time favorite pranks. I’m serious -- after it happened, we laughed about for years, joking about it almost every single time we spoke until the last time I saw him. Yes, Delyn, the Half-Chinese Fire Drill. After our early morning scripture class, we typically all caravaned back to Lamar High School. Delyn Dehoyos usually carpooled with the Crawford kids, and they frequently pulled stunts like super soaking other cars at stop lights, washing windows while waiting for the train, and, yes, executing Chinese fire drills. This particular morning, the Crawfords were first in the line of cars back to the high school. My brother Trent and I were second, so we had a front row seat. They stopped at the first red light, and we noticed a door open with feet jumping out. It was Delyn. And only Delyn. I think she realized at the same time we did what was happening, and she quickly tried opening the door again. I don’t think I need to tell you that it didn’t open. And because it was Sean at the wheel, simply locking the door for the length of one red light wasn’t hilarious enough, he took off as soon as the light turned green! Poor Delyn, only a freshman, was left stranded on the side of the road. She tells me that at least five cars passed her before someone gave her a ride to school. She found her backpack sitting outside of their car when she finally made it to the parking lot.
Sean also never did things halfway. If he wanted to do something -- he did it fully. He committed and followed through, without looking back. Take, for example, his halloween costume our freshman year of college. He’d talked about this costume for weeks before he pulled it off . . . but he would never tell me what it was. I remember the moment I saw the faded argyle sweater, the 1950s browline glasses, the thick white mustache, and the shiny bald head surrounded by white, horseshoe-shaped hair. And no, he wasn’t wearing a rubber bald cap -- he actually shaved his head!
Although Sean loved having fun and being silly, he never treated his friends like they were jokes. Jared Masten, one of his companions from his mission in Seattle, shared the following experience:
“I got to know him well over the course of those two years; . . . He became my brother, and I will always see him that way. He truly was an example of leadership and I learned a lot while working with him.
“To give an example of this, I’d like to share a story of when I was still in the MTC. There I was often sick, and during the final few nights I found myself completely unable to sleep, instead lying restlessly in my bed in my bed. The final night was no different, except that we needed to depart very early in the morning. Between being sick and the stress of my situation, when the time came to head to the bus, I was unable to make the walk across campus to the loading station with my bags. Halfway there I collapsed on the pavement, feeling short of breath as if I were having an asthma attack. For the remainder of the distance our other roommates carried my bags, and Sean carried me with my arm around his shoulders. Though perhaps a small act to those who witnessed it, to me it was a demonstration of his character. Him lifting me up that day has become symbolic in my mind to much of our relationship during the remainder of my mission. That is because when times were difficult, I was frequently carried by Sean as he supported me emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, when it seemed impossible for me to find sufficient strength on my own. That was simply the kind of friend he was.”
Sean was that sort of friend to me too, for as many years as he was in my life. He looked out for me and took the time to understand who I really was. Now, I’m going to describe ways that Sean has let me know that I mattered to him, but I acknowledge that I’m only one. He touched so many lives and cared about so many people. The way he treated other people, I think, makes up a lot of who Sean is. I want to reiterate what Jared Masten said about what Sean did for him. He said, “Though perhaps a small act to those who witnessed it, to me it was a demonstration of his character.”
These are some of his small acts to me:
A few times when I didn’t quite make it to church in high school, my Sunday school class drove the 15 minutes to my house to share a quick message with me at my doorstep. During the Christmas season, they had time to sing only one carol before having to drive back to church. They sang “The First Noel,” which was not coincidentally my favorite Christmas hymn. I glanced at Sean. He knew that was my favorite, and I could tell that he made sure to tell the class.
After I printed my wedding invitations, my youngest brother pointed out that they contained a typo! What! It was just too expensive to get them all reprinted. After telling Sean, he told me to meet him at FedEx Kinkos at 3 a.m. where he was working the graveyard shift. My then-fiance and I sleepily drove to meet him, and when we opened the door and that bell chimed, Sean popped out from behind the desk, concealing remarkably well the fact that he was snoozing just seconds before. He was chipper, friendly, and ready to help us. He picked out the nicest paper and showed us a few examples. We printed just enough to send the VIPs a typo-free announcement. And he didn’t charge me a cent.
After Sean moved to a different state, he went out of his way to visit me when he came into town. The last time I saw him, he was visiting from Colorado -- and he made a point to come meet my son, Sebastian.
During high school, I -- like probably many other teenage girls -- had my fair share of rough patches. You know, I thought I hid it well, but I think Sean could see through that. I'll never forget that day he turned around in seminary, handed me a folded scrap of paper, and then turned around, as if he were just handing me a pencil he thought I dropped. I unfolded that piece of paper and read the words, "I think this might help . . . Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." He had no idea what I was struggling with then until a few years later, but he somehow knew I needed that message right then. To this day, I think of that moment, and it helps me realize that God puts people into our lives for a purpose. He gives us a friend or a brother or a son or a husband to help build us up. Sean was that friend, brother, son, or husband to every person in this room and more.
To Kristen, I am immensely sorry for your loss, and we -- all of us here -- love you and mourn with you. It only takes one look at one of the beautiful photos of you and Sean to see the love he had for you, his angelic wife. You have fulfilled one of Sean’s most noble desires, to find love that would transcend all things -- even death.
I want to share with you Sean’s own testimony that he wrote me while he was serving a mission in Seattle. He wrote, “The Lord loves each and every one of us. Every time I think about the fact that He knows you, He knows me, He knows all of us, and how much He loves us, I am overwhelmed. It’s hard to think of our relationship with the Lord as personal and really there sometimes, but I’ve really felt like He knows me and watches out for me. He’s real, He lived, He lives, and we’ll live with Him again. Yo lo sé.”
I also believe that God knows us and loves us. He has a plan for us. And like Sean wrote, we will live with God again some day. For Sean, that day is now. But I believe that he is there, expanding his talents, learning even more about chemistry, cracking ridiculous jokes, working hard, and serving his friends.