My dear friend, Whitney

Here is my latest column, inspired by my joy, my daughter. I was looking forward to sharing that joy with my friend Whitney. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I didn’t get to it before it was too late.

My daughter, My joy

Inspired by her cousin’s eulogy, I’m creating my own Whitney list of memories here. The truth is, before I even read her euology, I’ve thought of nothing else all night, every night. Every day since I found out about this last Thursday, it has sunken in just a bit deeper that the world will no longer have her vivaciousness, her complete adoration, and her spontaneous spirit. She was taken from us way too soon this past week. She was sick for so long and my only solace is that she doesn’t have to fight any more. I think her body fought three lifetimes worth in her 32 years. Sometimes I would think about what it took for her to just get through every day. It took the strength many of us only have to summon once in a lifetime. And through it all she loved to love and give and experience.

This will also be posted on the Facebook page, Gone Too Soon – Whitney K. Shanahan.

Whitney memories:

One of the best weeks of my life was visiting Whitney for spring break sophomore year of college. Here are a few highlights:

Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway to the $10 middle of the night entry to the Escelon hot springs. We lay on the massage tables looking up at the stars on an open deck over the ocean. I’d never seen the moon illuminating a cliff. For a kid from Chicago, twisting and turning around a mountain, in the back of her mysterious neighbor’s BMW, watching the violent crash of the waves against the rocks a hundred feet below me, I was alternately thrilled and terrified. I told her after that I was sure we were going to die the whole time but sure it would have been an amazing way to go. I cried having to get on the plane and go back to dark, cold, boring Champaign.

Teaching me that the hippie kids on the street in Santa Cruz weren’t really homeless. She would give you the shirt off her back but had no patience for people taking advantage of others.

Turning her dreads into a shaved fuzzy duck head that we would rub.

Introducing me to my first wheatgrass and my first chai in Santa Cruz. When she came to visit Courtney and me in Champaign she told Andy Rosenthal and Alex Berkovitz how to make this new fangled stuff the coffee shop had just started carrying. “Take the chai and make it into a chai latte!” Personally, I’ve been addicted every since.


Always taking our dinner leftovers to homeless people.

Whitney Time. 45 minutes late before she went to California. After that it was 1:45 late.

“Swimming” at Mandy’s house!

Wearing her pink boa from Lani in the hospital. She couldn’t have been happier if someone had brought her diamonds.

Whitney was the only person who could match my unnatural passion for strawberry shortcake.

Hiking and picnicking by the Potomac River in Maryland a couple of years ago. She helped me to discover a gorgeous area in my own backyard. It was an island in time out of my busy DC schedule and a treat to simply spend quality time together.

Whit starting AIDS Awareness week at Niles West and having the most respectful conversation with an Evangelical Christian mom who’d come in to express her horror.

Two from Lani (my sis):

Whitney and I led the Aids Awareness Week and the David Chereck Memorial Fund together. We had a press conference and I was so Nervous, I couldn’t say anything. Whitney, at 15, handled it like a pro.

The best story, which shows her generosity and dedication to her friends, was her helping me, even in her sick state, to makeover our bedroom at our Dad’s. This was actually right after college. She drove me to Evanston (Urban outfitters to buy tapestries and one of those Futon stores to buy bookshelves) then came home with me and helped throw out and clear out everything plus arrange the new stuff. It made her SOOOO happy to help me and help me solve a problem. The only reason my Dad didn’t freak out was because I said the whole thing was her idea. That made it 100% okay.