Shanelle Brennen

Shanelle Brennen

3/14/2017 4:19:13 PM

Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

On September 10th, 1969, Paul and Gwendolyn King welcomed their first child, Shanelle Lavette, into the world. She was the light of their life and the young couple enjoyed their beautiful and quiet baby girl. Shanelle often said, she was the perfect mix of her parents, inheriting her mother’s courage and endurance and her father’s humility, compassion and sense of humour. These are traits that served her well throughout the course of her life.

As was the family tradition on her mother’s side of the family, Shanelle began her education at St. Agnes Day Care. The school was within walking distance of her maternal grandmother, Agatha’s house in King Street. After preschool, she spent two years at Woodcock Primary School before transferring to St. Anne’s Anglican School where she stayed until graduation. Shanelle made friends easily and had a way of connecting with people wherever she went.

Coming from a large, close-knit family, her character was built during her younger years. She spent time by her maternal grandmother’s house in King Street and many summers with her paternal grandmother Ruby in Dumfries, Cat Island. Her parents settled in Golden Gates and later moved to San Souci in eastern New Providence. Family was everything to Shanelle, even as a child. She loved her aunts and uncles on both sides and grew up like sisters with her younger aunts, Claudine and Chantelle. As the eldest grandchild on her mother’s side, she set the tone for what her younger cousins could achieve and she made time to connect with all of them, taking them out and sharing her life experiences with them.

After being her parents’ only child for almost ten years, she made a special request of her mother—she wanted a younger sister. When her sister, Shonalee, finally arrived, Shanelle took the role of big sister very seriously and despite their age difference, she included Shonalee in every aspect of her life.

As a young member of St. Agnes Anglican Church, Shanelle grew to know Christ and was heavily involved in the Christian Youth Movement and the St. Agnes Youth Choir.  Over the years, her relationship with God strengthened and her faith deepened as she went through life’s challenges and triumphs. She saw the good in others and believed in God’s ability to heal and restore.  She also believed in his promise of life everlasting, if we lived with Christ in our hearts.

After high school, Shanelle enrolled in the then College of The Bahamas and earned an associates degree before heading to Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

If there was ever a time when the saying “You can take the girl out of the island, but you can’t take the island out of the girl” was true it was during her years at Acadia. She quickly connected with all of the Bahamians on campus and started life long friendships with Sophie, Stacia, Lorna, Debbie, Shevaun, Vannie and many others. While she took her studies seriously, Shanelle enjoyed college life to the fullest. She would return home with albums full of pictures and videos of her role in campus talent shows, movie nights and Caribbean student parties. She was naturally talented and loved to sing and dance. In her first year, her talents led to her walking away with the title of Miss Homecoming Queen.

While in Canada, she began noticing changes in her health and was eventually diagnosed with lupus. She knew the illness well as her mother had fought lupus for many years. Even with the news, she continued to work hard in school and enjoy life on campus. Shanelle always said, “You can have a full life with lupus. My mommy is living proof!” And she faced her diagnoses with this same determination and fighting spirit as her mother. Despite physical pain and debilitating fatigue, she completed her bachelor’s degree becoming the first grandchild on either side of her family to graduate from college. 

After returning to The Bahamas, she began her 20-year career in banking, working first as a teller at CIBC. Shanelle loved being able to reconnect with her family and friends. Her love for singing led her to audition for the inaugural group of the Bahamas National Youth Choir. She balanced long practice hours with her new career and enjoyed traveling around the world with the group.

While at home, she also reconnected with her high school friend and classmate Sean Brennen. The two began dating and started to plan a future together. Always seeking ways to grow and learn, she decided to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Barry University, which she completed successfully. 

She returned home and worked in management roles at Bank of The Bahamas and later RBC Royal Bank. Her former work colleagues were always confident in her abilities to get the job done. What amazed them was her ability to connect with people from the security guard at the front door to colleagues working in her department to persons on any level within the organization. In addition to working hard and putting in long hours, Shanelle was the first to join the social committee, to plan a colleague’s shower, to decorate the office for Christmas or to rally others to give and donate to a coworker in need. 

Sean and Shanelle were united in marriage on July 6th, 1996. Ever the planner, she dreamed and executed the perfect wedding and they began their lives together as husband and wife. God blessed their union with two healthy children- Sean Osbert, Jr. and Syann Jordan Alyiah. Shanelle loved being a wife and mother. Together with her husband, she created a loving home for their family. Shanelle was meticulous when it came to decorating and designing their home space, paying attention to the smallest details. Her attention to their physical surroundings paled in comparison to the love and care she showed for her children. She poured into their character, encouraged them to be creative, to be independent thinkers and she made sacrifices so that they could live out their dreams.

Shanelle managed her illness with the care of her doctors and the support of her family for many years. She called herself the “weeping warrior” and smiled through the tears on her painful days. In 2011 and 2012, she began to experience complications due to a lupus flare and was unable to work for several months. In true Shanelle fashion, while battling her own health issues she began thinking of others who may have been alone and suffering in silence with lupus. A few years earlier, she connected with a fellow lupus fighter named Debi Humes, who started a support group for persons in The Bahamas living with lupus. For health reasons, Debi was unable to push the group forward. In 2012, Shanelle picked up the mantle and began pulling people and resources together to push lupus to the forefront. She organized meetings, sought out sponsors, planned events, raised funds and connected with persons in the health care profession to assist with all things related to lupus. Shanelle insisted that all members of the group battling lupus referred to themselves as “fighters”. Even as the group grew, she would still take the time to talk to persons who were recently diagnosed letting them know that they could, in fact, lead a full and productive life with lupus.

In the summer of 2015, after managing her illness for more than two decades, Shanelle began the biggest battle with lupus. After being in and out of hospital, she suffered a series of seizures and multiple strokes as a result of the illness, which left her with limited mobility. She was airlifted to Florida for further treatment and rehabilitation. On her return home, she received therapy and at-home care. During these challenging times, her family rallied around Shanelle to keep her spirits high and prayed that God would fully restore her physical body. Her husband and children took special care of her during this time, ensuring that her every need was met. She often described her husband, Sean as her “rock” especially through her most recent health battle.

Despite her inability to walk or sit up, her speech became bolder. She used her voice to encourage others and to call on God to help her through the toughest battle of her life. Even in her pain, she took joy in showing visitors who came to see how strong her faith was in God and an additional treat was that she always wanted to be surrounded by the younger members of her family, especially her niece and nephew Evan and Morgan. In October 2016, her family and friends planned a fundraising event for her. As a surprise to the guests who supported the event, her husband arranged for Shanelle to attend. She enjoyed the evening and chatted with more than 100 persons in attendance. At the end of the evening, she thanked everybody for coming and said, “With God ALL things are possible and so by the next party, I will be on the floor dancing.  I thank God that I am here, it is only through his grace that I am here and through your prayers. Please continue to pray for me. Please pray for my family. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And next time I will be dancing with you!”

But that was not to be. On Tuesday, February 28, after complaining of severe pain, Shanelle was readmitted to Doctor’s Hospital and was airlifted to South Florida two days later. After a courageous battle with lupus, she passed away quietly on Thursday March 2, 2017. We trust and believe that our Weeping Warrior is safe in the arms of the Lord and dancing with the angels in heaven. 

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