• shawnmariespry

Closer Than a Brother


One of my best friend's many beautiful photographs, gracing my home

I just discovered I’m a few weeks early, but then I only just guessed there might really be a “Best Friends Day”. So now that you know, you have a few weeks to prepare for June 8, that is, if you—like me—are blessed to have a BFF.


We met on a yellow school bus. I never rode to school in one, this bus was repurposed for our church youth group. It was the summer of 1983, I was 13, she was 12. It was the beginning of a life-long best friendship.


Suzanne Michelle Tichenor and Shawn Marie Shellnut, jelly and peanut butter. She is the baby, I am the type-A firstborn. We are the perfect compliment. The days and nights we first spent in that tent in Caseville, Michigan, at Albert E. Sleeper State Park were the beginning of a beautiful relationship.


What a wonderful gift, for two insecure adolescent girls to find a confidant at such tender ages. And what a rare and precious thing for that connection to stand the test of almost four decades.

Some highlights:

Suzi touching my eyelashes ever so slightly with her fingertip so I would twitch in surprise (every time) during the final benediction at Sunday church services.


Sleeping on couch cushions one summer night on her family’s bathroom floor to escape the mosquitos in her bedroom and having her dad walk in wearing only underwear.


Laughing uncontrollably in my bedroom late into the night, incurring my father’s irritated yells to, “Quiet down in there!”


Creating alter-egos—Mr. and Mrs. Bufontis—and dressing up as these strange characters and even making a t-shirt memorializing them. Please don’t ask.


Watching Children of the Corn and laughing hilariously as we rewound the VHS tape repeatedly at one minor part where a character trips running away. I can still see it in my mind.


Taking turns pouring undiluted heavy-duty liquid household cleaner on each other’s hair, head hanging over the tub, to remove the hard water red rust stains. No worries, we did a mayonnaise hair mask after.


Mocking Robert Plant’s I’m in the Mood for a Melody by repeatedly singing it sarcastically. To this day, one of us can hum a few notes and the other finishes.


Developing a list of words that we hated the sound of, like “moist”, “quality” and “tidbit”, and creating fictional names for birds, like the “purple-breasted snucker”.


Going to our first R-rated movie, St. Elmo’s Fire at the Oxford Cinema, and being discovered, causing one of our mothers to cry.


Creating a cleaning business then committing a federal crime together by putting our flyers in people’s mailboxes.


Windows down on a warm summer day, singing the B-52s Love Shack at the top of our lungs on a two-lane byway down the middle of Michigan, having a bee appear in the car and surviving.


Sailing a Sunfish over the eerily-awesome underwater boulders in the waterways of the Les Chenaux Islands while at InterVarsity family camp at Cedar Campus.


Working at one of our first out-of-college jobs together, swapping stories and playing pranks…being mistaken for each other by multiple coworkers.


Living hours apart during college, a few miles apart for a couple decades, going weeks without seeing each other and always picking back up where we left off.



Suzi was the dreamer, I, the pragmatist. She lifted me up, I kept her grounded. Crushes, heartbreaks, moral failings, personal victories, weddings, births, deaths, graduations, flat tires, runaway children, we’ve been in the trenches and on the mountaintop.


I knew when she forgave me for ditching her for my boyfriend at the Winchester Mall movie theatre, that I had found a true forever friend. There have been many moments of grace and I’m sure there will be more.


I love you Suzanne! Forever grateful we can count on each other to pick those wild chin hairs years after we’ll both be too blind to see them.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9


There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24


Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

John 15:13-15

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