On February 26th, 2016, my cousin Shaina took her own life. I got the honor of speaking at her funeral today. Here is (roughly) what I said.
Growing up, I never really got to know Shaina very well. Up until September, our two immediate families probably visited each other no more than ten times. They lived in California, we lived in Missouri. That’s just how it goes.
I came out to SLO and started crashing with my Uncle Scott and Aunt Diane in September. Around that same time, Shaina came back to live at her childhood home. She had two months sober at that point, and seemed to be happier and more focused than I had seen or heard about in years.
After living under the same roof as her for an extended period of time, I can now say what a shame it was our interactions were so limited for most of our lives. With that being said, I am beyond thankful for, and will always remember the time we spent together here in California, living in the same house.
One thing Shaina pleasantly surprised me with was how considerate and caring she was. On several occasions, Shaina would text me short and sweet messages, wishing me a good day, and letting me know how much she loved and cared for me. Even near the end, as recently as two weeks ago when she was under considerable stress, I woke up to such a text. Shaina never had a problem with expressing her love for her family. I think most of us could take a page out of her book.
With a girlfriend, fulltime job and classes at Cuesta, Shaina not only made time for me, but actively sought out opportunities for the two of us to spend time together. She was very deliberate in making plans to hang out. At the beginning of the week, she would plan out each day of her week, and set time aside to do something together. It didn’t always work out each week that we would be able to get together, but the thought was always there on her part.
Shaina also was one of the most grateful and appreciative souls I’ve come across. On one specific occasion, Shaina asked me to take care of her iguana, Billy, for a night while she went camping. “Taking care” of Billy meant spraying some water in his cage to keep him hydrated once at night and once in the morning, and throwing a few crickets in there for him. “Taking care” of Billy for one night probably took less than a minute, all in all. For this, Shaina thanked me endlessly and showed so much appreciation. The next day, I walked into my room to a $20 bill on my bed. After I refused to accept such a thing, she made me agree to let her take me out to lunch instead to show her thanks. Another time, Shaina almost got upset that I wouldn’t accept money for helping her with a few math problems. Shaina was so generous by nature. She made me want to give back more to those I love, not only with money, but with love and kindness.
It’s no secret that Shaina lived a hard life. Struggling with substance abuse issues and chronic depression from an incredibly young age, she came an incredibly long way. But as is evident, there is no hard and fast cure for mental illnesses of this nature. Shaina was in considerable pain for most of her life, struggling to find lasting happiness. In no way, shape, or form am I happy about this situation, but the ONLY thing that brings me ANY comfort whatsoever is that she no longer has to hurt anymore. I hope you’ve found peace, Shaina. I just wish you could be here to see all the people that you’ve touched throughout your time here.