The other day was the 2nd year anniversary of my Uncle’s death. I think the second year is harder than the first because you realize that you are not going to see the person again until you meet in eternity.  I was going to try and write something poetic that did him at least a little justice, but as I starred at my scream nothing came out of me but tears. My brother Alex is an amazing writer who can turn any life event into the most beautiful story you’ve ever heard. He wrote a story about our uncle and some of his most memorable characteristic traits. I couldn’t have said it any better myself so I am just going to share the story that he wrote:

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“The smell of bleach made me loopy while cleaning bathroom stalls at work, in between running bar codes of items over a scanner with the beep and sound of loud microphones exclaiming, “Good afternoon, Earth Fare”. The smell made me think on the first time I visited Spanish Wells, Bahamas. My uncle, Shan, had a partnership with an old friend he had met years ago when working on a sailboat. His name was Mike and he now resided in Michigan and worked on home building in the warmer seasons and traveled to the coastal island when the winter weather no longer permitted outdoor construction. I was with my immediate family: Dad, Ellie, Annie, Mom, brother Andrew the first time we visited the home that Shan and Mike built (Shan was more of a helpful eye than a helpful hand). We were pier side in a fisherman’s four post structure where the locals cleaned the catches of the day and wiped the wooden cutting boards with rags that were soaked in the overwhelming odor of bleach- buckets of rotting and floating guts and gills of yellowtail snapper and Nassau groupers in the mixture of colors sat below the cleaning blocks. We then grilled the white and fresh filets on the back porch of my uncle’s home that was positioned by the oceanfront that ran shallow but reached a reef just a mile or two out, and there was Eleuthera in the visible distance with rounded tip and Ridley’s Head cave on the corner on the jagged bank of the island with covering coral.

My uncle had been a yacht captain as far back as I could remember. He was always well dressed, always fashioning a tucked in dress shirt of vibrant color and fine fabrics. He was always on the go and rarely sat still. He was a nervous drummer, in the sense that he was always shaking his keys and coins around in his pocket or tapping and hitting his knuckles on tables and surfaces in general, ready to be doing something more engaging or sometimes less engaging, depending on if he had been drinking heavily. The 85 Ft. yacht he captained was out of water in the repair shop receiving a tune-up, and we drove past in a golf cart, viewing the workers looking real small next to a boat of such great size. Shan had captained it for years and stayed in the living quarters with his girlfriend, Kelly, from Vancouver, Canada. The Bakers, out of Charleston on the South Carolina coast, owned the great whale of a boat and would often fly down on weekends for parties and cocktail filled Saturdays with friends and business partners in the coastal city that the history books and residents claimed was holy—tall steeples and church bells clanging in the backdrop of my visits. Some seasons the yacht was docked in the harbor, and we would visit Shan when this was so we would drive down from Rock Hill for a day trip. He had grown up near there and moved the holy coast to attend College of Charleston, though he never finished. Instead he started working at the marina and picked up sailing as a hobby and began competing in races, then captaining smaller vessels throughout the Bahamas, Caribbean, and Europe- working his way up to yachts and somewhere along the way he ended up in Spanish Wells. Our days on the island were spent jumping from Ripley’s Head at least, a 50. Ft drop into the pristine, crisp sheets of rolling waves, exploring the coral caves as the water drew our floating bodies into the loosely lit hideaways. We spent a day on Harbour Island, which was on the opposite side of Eleuthera from Spanish Wells. We strolled and sat on the surface of the pink coral sand beach on the Northeast side of the Island. Swimming never grew tiring and we ate fried conch in between hamburger buns and sipped on fruit juice with colorful designed cans and labeling.

Shan passed away a few years ago from a massive heart attack and that home on Spanish Wells is no longer in our family’s name. The last time we visited and saw him in that house for just a day out of the full extent of the month long stay. I had seen Shan since and was able to speak to him as a real person rather than a nephew. We got together in New York City- Soho- with my friends Cole and Lila. We had just made our way up the east coast through D.C. and concrete Philadelphia, and were on a real tight budget. We had been making veggie sandwiches on the desks of $38 motel rooms. Shan was coming from New England, Nantucket, I think- Kelly was with him talking about the years she had deejayed and spoke of playing shows in clubs of alphabet city. Shan was wearing a tucked in, forest green polo, as He and Kelly emerged around a corner, through crowds of people. He looked older than the image I had instilled in my memory bank: salt n’ pepper hair with thick wave and thin abdomen, and face free of wrinkles- now bigger in the stomach, looking more like his father, though still dashing. His stride had slowed up and his steps were beginning to drag the ground and his frame seemed stiff and he was looking elderly in that afternoon light. They took us all about the city: The Empire State, Ground Zero with the lines and current of the crowds heavy, all summer it was like this, melting with the assortment of people. We ended the night on Broadway- $88 a ticket, he didn’t even blink when he heard the pricing just smiled and paid the fee. We exited post show into the riddled streets and various smells and drizzling rain and humidity of summer. We parted ways by shaking hands. He and Kelly were off to the boat that was docked in a New Jersey harbor, and Lila, Cole, and I drifted into the neon reflective evening. Shan had said right before we parted ways, “This night has been pretty slick”… now taking a permanent state in memories and past-pictures that encompass those who are no longer with all of us and me. Now a ghost of yachts and sailboats that float across pristine, crisp sheets of rolling waves that are outside of the perception of this reality- he was going, going, now gone into a different place that was far from the Bahamas, Charleston, Rock Hill, NYC, or maybe somehow closer to these places than he had ever been before.”

Written by Alex Lacey. For more incredible writings check out his tumblr

  1. Wow, that is so beautiful Ellie. Yes Alex captures the fullness of Shan in such a wonderfully evocative way. I am privileged to have known “uncle Shan” through your beautiful family.

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