It was a cold February evening around 6 pm. The sun was just beginning to set on the horizon and a golden glow filled the air as if we were expecting a golden experience. Nothing could have been less true. The roar of incoming planes filled the air, but we were only interested in one particular plane. As we waited, we stood on grass that had once seen greener days to watch your plane approach the Tarmac. Many of us gathered for this somber occasion…..your families from my marriage and your dad’s….sisters and brothers….several great aunts and uncles…aunts and uncles and cousins, and both grannies and your papaw. It was almost as if we were waiting for you to walk off of that plane. Instead, we were there to witness your escort get off the plane with a backpack of your belongings in tow and to watch you be rolled out of the center of the plane in a flag laden casket. Not your typical welcome home, but nonetheless, it was our welcome home. I will never forget watching that plane approach the runway, thinking, “That plane holds my beautiful, baby son, dead in a casket.” That thought was unfatomable until I saw the casket taken off the plane. Talk about a reality check…I’m not sure those words suffice for what was really taking place, but it woke me up to some degree that this was real and it was happening. It was, as I had said, February….February 19th to be exact….a full 9 days since you had passed on February 10th. Nine days had passed since your death, and it was 9 days of pure hell wondering when you would be flown home so that we could move on in the process of celebrating your life and laying your body to rest. I say move on only in terms of the burial process….because after that comes the real process of grief that I believe we move through (not on as others say).
the death of a child is heart wrenching…your heart actuLly feels,as if it is broken. And in all actuality, it does break. Research has proven that parents can actually experience broken heart syndrome, where one side of the heart enlarges due to the stress of the grief that is experienced. So when I told others that it felt like my heart was hurting or breaking…..I was being truthful.
But as I reflect on the day of your memorial, I think about the people who were brave enough to speak that day. One of those came all the way from Virginia to pay tribute to you and to honor what you meant to him. As he began to speak, Barry’s voice quivered, not with nervousness, but with sadness as he spoke of your impact on his life. His tearful account detailed what you had done for him. He spoke of your undying loyalty…that you were always there for him when he needed you. But, he recounted one particular time in which he had experienced a pretty bad day…he said, “Aaron was there to cheer me on and to tell me that things would be better tomorrow.” He said that you had a unique ability to take the bad and turn it into something positive. I think he even made the comment that “Aaron was like a brother to me.” I think the next speaker was your papaw….that was really hard, because he couldn’t stop crying as he spoke. Next up was Nate, your best friend. Nate was emotional as well and as he spoke with a trembling voice, he talked about how close you two were….you were like brothers…and like brothers, you had problems. But there was one thing for certain, you never turned your back on each other. Brotherly love…in the sense of love for your fellow-man as a brother. You seemed to experience that relationship not only with friends, but with family as well. Your cousin Zach wrote, ” Aaron was like a brother to me. He was caring, loyal, and wanted to help in any way he could.he would give advice when he could, but when he had none to give, he would just listen. Aaron was also very optimistic..always finding the good and bright side of the bleakest of situations. While distance may have separated us as adults, we never grew apart. We were always there for each other no matter what.” You had such a kindness and compassion for others that you probably practiced brotherly love more than I ever have.
then there was your true brotherly relationship with your sister. You spent the first 8-10 years of your life with just you two. Boy do I remember the fights you two used to have…it used to drive me crazy! So, I came up with what I thought was a great solution….I would make you two sit on the bed and look at each other for time out. You couldn’t talk or touch each other..but I forgot to say that you couldn’t make faces at each other. Apparently, Taylor was pretty good at that part….and then you would get in trouble for lashing out. The things parents learn as their kids grow up are sometimes astonishing. You two grew I to adults with different personalities that continued to cause clashes, but you had a bond like no other. You and Zach could mess with her, but by golly, no one else had better even try. You loved each other deeply and that strong love led to some strong clashes as you grew into adulthood. Regardless, you were still there for each other….laughing about younger times and reminiscing about things you two had done to which I was clueless. You loved each other deeply…you had a bond that developed over time and over trying circumstances…which made your love even stronger.
Unique is what you were. But I would venture to say that’s what any parent would say about their child or children. I know that every parent can tal about the uniqueness of their child and what their child brought to this world. But there is one thing that I am proud to say about you and your uniqueness….you had the ability to love beyond circumstances and to see the broken hearted. I think God gave you that gift, because you had such a tender heart. For some reason, one that only God understands, your purpose on this earth was fulfilled at the early age of 23. Maybe it was to reach the few people you did before your death and to show them that there is a better way….Jesus. I don’t know…I don’t have the answer…but I have to think that if you reached even just a few people for Him….your death was not in vain. Your story helped lead people to Christ….if even only a few. And your life continues to impact others…maybe not on a daily basis…but in some way, shape, or form your friends think of you and the words have said….or maybe haven’t said. You were and continue to be important to us all and your brotherly love will forever have an impact on all who knew you.
As you would say to me…..”Stay Classy”