Steve and Vickie Murray recently lost their youngest son, Sean, who died three days after his 26th birthday. To say he was loved would risk understatement.
Steve and Vickie own Murray Family Farms. Steve and I swim together. He does two laps to my one and has enough left in the tank to smile at me while he laps me.
Sean collapsed at home. The Murrays don’t know why and, even if they did, “I’m not sure it would matter,” Steve said.
The family is close. Both sons — Sean and Steve Jr. — are involved in the business as is their sister, Katie. Sean was the hugger and had adopted his father’s philosophy “not a care in the world.”
I saw Steve at the pool a few days after Sean’s death. I caught him between laps. That’s not easy.
There is nothing to say. You think about your own 26-year-old and watch a friend’s eyes fill with tears. You listen.
“Good will come from this,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but it will.”
More than 400 people came to the potluck and service at the Murrays' house last Saturday at the corner of General Beale Road and Buena Vista Boulevard, two dirt roads. They ran out of chairs — but not stories. Not stories, not friends.
“At Garces, he was an honorary Catholic,” Steve said. “Sean attended Mass and prayers before football games and engaged in religious studies.
“At Bakersfield College, he was an honorary Mormon because the neighboring LDS church offered free parking, unlimited ping pong during lunch, and occasionally group prayers. We have received love and prayers from Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, metaphysicians, agnostics and atheists.”
Sean saw good in all religions, all people and also appreciated free parking and ping pong. He memorized people and names and made them feel as if they had known him for years when, in fact, they’d had just met him last week.
He was comfortable in his own skin and had a sense of humor, a sharp wit and never seemed to run out of steam.
His cousin Hugh said that “if Sean had been at the gathering Saturday he would have told his dad that 'you’re looking slim, Daddy-o,' and his mom 'that she looked as cute as a bug’s ear.'"
I saw Steve at the pool a couple days ago. He described Saturday’s Celebration of Life and repeated what he said earlier: “Good will come from this.”
Finally, it hit me and I understood what he meant.
Love is the good that comes from this and, if we are made from the same cloth as Sean, it courses through the next generation. Love is both message and mantra; as the Bible says, "It bears, believes, hopes, endures and does not end," even as we falter.
Good will come of this. For the 40,000 who have visited Sean’s Facebook page, the 400 who showed up Saturday and the people he made feel less lonely, good already has.
Sean's college buddies have started a "Sean Murray Scholarship." Contributions can be mailed to Sean Murray Memorial, c/o Bakersfield College Foundation, 1801 Panorama Drive, Bakersfield, CA 93305; or submitted online at bakersfieldcollege.edu/foundation/donations.