Below are the remarks I gave on October 29, 2018 at the CNAS event honoring the life and work of Shawn Brimley.
Thank you all so much for being here to honor Shawn.
I thought a lot about what I wanted to say to you tonight. Shawn was a brilliant, funny, thoughtful man, and I have many good things to say about him and his impact on the world. It’s hard to choose the best Shawn story or fully describe the impact he had on his coworkers, friends and family. Instead, I decided I would speak about what Shawn valued as his greatest lifetime achievement: being a dad to Claire, Austin and Tommy.
Kids, everyone is here because your Dad was a wonderful man. He was smart, yes, and he helped run a wonderful organization. But people don’t really love you because you are powerful. They love you because you are good and kind. Your dad was good and kind and he made the people in this room happier when he was around. Those are characteristics of a good leader and a good friend.
Now, I want to tell you a little something about your dad and how he loved each of you.
Tommy, you only got three short years with your dad, but your dad knew you would grow up to be a delightful big kid. He loved your funny personality and the way that you could hold your own against kids twice your size. He appreciated that you loved to laugh and make other people laugh. One of his favorite things to do was to carry you on his shoulders as he walked in the woods and you chatted to him about the way the world looked. You loved being with him and he loved that he was your favorite parent. When he was potty training you, he spent many weekend days playing the theme song from Captain Underpants and chasing you around the house after you peed on the potty. That’s because Dad believed in celebrating at every possible moment, right? One of his favorite times of year was Halloween, and he loved that you two would hand out candy at home together. One year, you dressed as Yoda, and he dressed up as Luke Skywalker, and you spent the evening jumping out of the bushes and scaring trick-or-treaters. Your dad was one of the most fun people I know, and he found a kindred spirit in you, Tommy.
Austin, you are the spitting image of your dad, both in looks and in personality. Your dad was an observer of the world, and he was a great listener – and these are both qualities I see in you. He loved watching you play baseball, not just because it was fun to see you learn a new skill but also because it meant he got special time just with you. I think that’s why he also loved building fires with you in the back yard. Often, I would look outside on cool fall afternoons and see you and your dad sitting in chairs by the fire, content to be there together with no other agenda. Austin, I love that you are interested in figuring out how things work, just like your dad was, and that you can build Lego sets with thousands of pieces for hours and hours without a break. That type of perseverance made your dad really successful in this place, CNAS, and it will make you successful in life too. But like Dad, you also love to relax. I remember how often Dad wanted to take you fishing, so you two could simply enjoy the water and the time with each other. Your dad knew how to soak up the best parts of life, especially time with his family. In that way, Austin, you are so much like your dad.
Claire, when you were born, Dad went over to the crib where they laid you and you wrapped your tiny fingers around his hand. I remember that moment so clearly, because it was the first time since our wedding that I had seen him cry. He loved being a father. One night, when you were just a few weeks old, he woke me up to tell me that you were “so amazing!” and had been talking to him for over an hour. I laughed at him – you were just a baby! – but he didn’t care. He knew you two could communicate in your special way. And you know what? You have his laugh. He laughed with a big, huge burst of laughter that filled the room and every time you laugh I think of him. I also think of him when I watch you play the guitar and practice a certain part of a song over and over again. He admired you for your creative and hard-working spirit, but he also loved how much you just loved life. You were the one who always laughed the hardest at his silly jokes and were excited to do things like run the Janney 5K and perform in the Janney Talent Show with him. Your dad loved how kind you always were to others, and he loved that you enjoyed a good party more than anything in the world. Your dad loved being with other people, and when I see you at a party making everyone laugh and enjoy the party even more because you’re there – well, in that moment, you are so much like your dad.
To all three of you, your dad would be so proud of you. He’d be proud of you because you are working hard in school and you are good to the people around you. And when your wrap your arms around me every morning and every afternoon, I think about how grateful I am that he gave me the three of you.
CNAS is a wonderful place and Daddy did so many important things.
But his greatest achievement was being called Dad by the three of you. You, kids, are his most important and lasting legacy.