Shawn Lanier family says farewell
As “Sandstorm” echoed through the cemetery at Fair Lawn United Methodist Church on Thursday, friends and family members of Shawn Lanier twirled white towels in the air. The casket of the USC graduate was then lowered into the ground.
Earlier, hundreds packed the church sanctuary to say goodbye to Lanier, 28, who died in a boating collision on Lake Murray last Friday. His friend and coworker, Danny Phillips, 37, also was killed. Both were eulogized Thursday.
Laughter rippled throughout the sanctuary as Lanier’s aunt, Jennie Price, approached the pulpit wearing a camouflage hunting vest and carrying a hunting trap and a fishing rod. Attached to the line on the rod were pictures of Lanier with some of his hunting catches. In front of the pulpit she placed a small nameplate bearing the word “Twiggy,” one of several nicknames that family and friends had for Lanier, who was also known as Twig, Twiggles, Rooney and Smiley.
“Can everybody give me a big one right now?” she said, asking the crowd to smile. “Is that Shawn, or what?”
Lanier and Phillips were in Phillips’ 16-foot bass boat with a third friend when the vessel collided with a 32-foot powerboat in the lake around 11 p.m. Friday. Both died from injuries suffered in the crash, which remains under investigation.
The overflow seating area in Fair Lawn’s fellowship hall, where attendees watched Thursday’s service on closed-circuit TV, had standing room only. In the fellowship hall, a camouflage baseball hat rested on a bouquet of flowers surrounded by framed pictures of Lanier throughout his life.
Evoking multiple laughs from the crowd, Price commented on her nephew’s love of the outdoors, hunting and fishing. After leading the crowd in an a cappella “Jesus Loves Me,” Price discussed Lanier’s life and salvation using golf as a metaphor. The game, which she said Lanier loved, typically has 18 holes.
“Though Shawn’s course has just run out, let us continue to drive, remembering the holes he played, touching and loving so many lives,” she said. “The days will be hard and will take their toll. But take heart: Shawn stands where we long to be – at the 19th hole.”
Lanier’s sister, Blythe Lanier, recalled how she “aggravated the daylights” out of her older brother, whom she last saw on her birthday, Easter Sunday. They loved quoting the movie “Dumb and Dumber” over the years, she said, and Lanier laughed every Christmas when they watched “Home Alone,” no matter how many times he had seen it.
“Life is gonna be great now, because guess who’s with you every day now – Shawn,” she said. “When you say ‘Go Cocks,’ just say it loud and proud. That’s what he did. When you hear a country song, you sing it at the top of your lungs.”
Seven miles away, at Sandy Level Baptist Church in Blythewood, Phillips’ family entered the fellowship hall to the strains of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” On the bulletin for the memorial service was a picture of Phillips, wearing only a pair of cargo shorts and a hat, playing his harmonica. His black Lab, Dakota, is seen next to him, howling.
Those speaking at Phillips’ service recalled his confidence, tenacity and passion for the outdoors. The Rev. Dennis Banks said Phillips was also known for his practicality, getting his wife, Savannah, some hooks for her hammock and a gift card for a car wash as stocking stuffers for Christmas.
“It was how he thought. He was a practical man,” Banks said after a round of chuckles. “He loved her and he wanted to provide something practical and loving, and he did.”
Wes Lee told the crowd he didn’t think his friendship with Phillips would work out because they were so different. “Him, a person who was more comfortable outdoors than he ever was inside, and me, the person who slept in his car the last two times we went camping,” Lee said, adding that Phillips became one of his best friends.
Lee implored Phillips’ grieving friends and family to “take all this ugliness and turn it into something beautiful.”
“That’s what Danny would do,” he said. “Is there a better tribute to pay to someone who made that his way of life than to walk in his footsteps?”
As the urn containing Phillips’ cremated remains was carried out after the service, his family members shared embraces with visitors, and Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” played on the sound system.