The most selfish act
“But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.”
― Albert Camus
A college buddy and roommate killed himself last week. I don’t really know how you sum up a life or friendship. Vaughn Shain Alexander was smart, witty, and the kind of guy everyone admired.
One of his friends posted a tribute on Shain’s Facebook Wall. I thought it captured what we are all feeling quite nicely.
“When you are lost in the woods, you know what they say? Stay put. If you stay put in one place and don’t wander, they’ll find you. And I was just hoping that Shain would’ve allowed himself to be found this time.”
Below is the obituary he wrote for himself, before he flew home to commit the act. I leave you with Shain’s own words.
Buddy, where ever you are and whatever you are doing, you are missed.
Vaughn Shain Alexander’s Obituary
Vaughn Shain Alexander died Sunday, May 4, 2014, just a few weeks shy of his 33rd birthday. Aside from family and friends, he loved three things in life: a good Caesar salad, a crisp, blue oxford shirt and a well-inked passport.
Shain grew up in Norman in his dad’s garage, surrounded by the smells and textures of wood, lacquer and paint. At the dinner table with his mother, it was common for them to discuss such topics as total hip replacement surgeries or even the finer details of a triple lumen catheter.
Neither of his parents ever told Shain that something was impossible. So, at the age of 4, he tied a blanket around his neck like a cape and climbed a ladder in their backyard. Shain then attempted to fly. Despite multiple failures, his dad came outside simply holding a slip of paper, which he calmly handed to his son. And Shain’s dad said, “It’s our address. Just in case you make it out of the neighborhood and need to find your way home.”
Later on, Shain would find a real passion for travel — and for meeting people as far outside his daily life as possible. He didn’t just think of it as a hobby; travel was a way to cultivate a better person within yourself. Naturally then, some of his most cherished moments came while traveling. He watched baby sea turtles hatch and scurry into the ocean in Costa Rica. He witnessed a Varanasi family’s last moments with their deceased infant before they cast the child into the Ganges to be reborn.
Shain met survivors of the Rwandan genocide and attended the International Criminal Tribunal to see the perpetrators of that horror stand trial. Shain gave alms to Buddhist monks in Laos, he stood eye-to-eye with mountain gorillas on the Congo border and he spent time with Kosovar refugees — two brothers, who’d escaped Serbia’s ethnic cleansing to build new lives for themselves in Italy. Shain believed that if everyone could share what he’d experienced in his travels, the world would be a warmer, kinder place.
Although Shain was a picky eater as a kid, he grew up to love all food, and would put anything in his mouth. Such as when he found himself in a Vietnamese alley, hungrily chewing off the head of a duck embryo. The duck vendor, truly impressed, asked if Shain would be interested in marrying his daughter. While that wedding was not to be, Shain’s taste for exotic adventure certainly was.
Though he never thought he was very good at letting people into his own life, Shain truly loved all of his friends. Most people in his life never had any idea how important they were to him, but they were. He felt honored and enriched by every person with whom he was able to spend even the briefest amount of meaningful time.
Shain was lucky to have the most dedicated and loving father anyone could ever ask for. Shain was a carbon copy of his mom — so even when mother and son would fight, they always knew how much they loved one another. Shain wouldn’t shut up about his two bulldogs, Maki and Bronco. He was a ridiculously sappy father to them. Shain was supremely gifted to have had such an amazing partner as Mark for more than nine years.
In lieu of flowers, Shain wanted each of his friends and family members to write a letter to someone they care about. You may also think about him the next time you’re eating cheddar bay biscuits at Red Lobster. And he’d definitely want you to travel more. Go somewhere that scares you. It would make Shain smile and give you a story to share for the rest of your life.
Memorial services for Shain will be 2 p.m. Saturday at the Havenbrook Funeral Home chapel, 3404 Havenbrook St. in Norman.
Arrangements for Shain and his family were placed in the care of the Vice family at Havenbrook Funeral Home in Norman.
Online condolences may be shared at HavenbrookFuneralHome.com.