As a family we have over the past 7 years refrained from talking about Aaron’s death. Rarely have I had conversations with any of my children about his passing and how it happened. If they talk about it among themselves I wouldn’t know.
As time passed each of us learned to deal with this tragedy in our own ways. I never broached the subject with my kids nor did they come for advice or a shoulder to cry on. In retrospect I wish I could have coped better, at least for the sake of my children.
At our yearly Family Day when we gathered each year near the date of his death. One year my ex-wife brought a picture of Aaron and placed it in the center of the picnic table as a reminder of why we were there. One of her older daughters lovingly rebuffed her and told her it wasn’t necessary because we all knew why we were there. His picture remained in place that day but never showed up again.
Our conversation at these outings was never about Aaron. It didn’t have to be, he was there with us, in each of our hearts and thoughts and we all knew it.
Someday I would like to be able to talk to each one of his siblings and get their story to get a better understanding of how Aaron’s death affected them, the things that they went through, the anguish, heartbreak and their own personal grief. Did they carry any guilt blaming themselves in any way, did they harbour any hidden memories that were too difficult for them to face. What fears did they encounter the days, months and years that followed. Did his death bring them closer to their siblings and our family in general or did they drift away inwardly if not outwardly.
As I reflect on their part in this family tragedy I was encouraged when I started to think about the physical ways that each one of them wants to remember and honour their brother.
Each year many of them meet at his headstone at the local cemetery on his birthday. I didn’t know this until my wife showed me a picture posted on Facebook of them gathered together one year. One of my boys who apparently couldn’t make it the year the photo was taken, had his own face superimposed in the photo and posted it himself to show that although not able to make it in person he was there in spirit.
At Aaron’s memorial we had a small photo of him printed and laminated and passed out to all who came to remember him. Each one of my kids has this photo either in their wallet or purse and even on their refrigerator in the their kitchen.
Quite a few have gone to the extreme of getting tattooed with his name or other messages on their bodies, keeping him forever remembered.
I am not a big fan of tattoos. I have none myself but I have come to terms with the fact that this day and age it seems to be ingrained in our western culture not much different to social media.
So when one of my daughters turns up at a family gathering one year with a huge tattoo on her outer thigh I was really taken by surprise and to be honest my reaction was not a great one. Then when she told me to take a closer look I saw it was a picture of Aaron permanently inked on her leg. It was her way of honoring his life.So how could I argue with that.
When my youngest child who is now eighteen told me she wanted to get a tattoo I froze. She is what is known as a “clean skin” and the last I thought would go down this road. She consoled me with the fact it would be a little one. When I asked what she was thinking of getting she proudly stated, “Aaron’s name”. Another one of my girls has a little message on the back of her neck with Aaron’s name so anyone standing in line behind her will know that whoever this Aaron is, is very special to her.
The boys went about it in bigger ways having their memories of him emblazoned on their chest or arms.
There is a story behind each tattoo, each visit to the cemetery and their personal bigger story locked away in each of their hearts.
Their outward manifestation of their love for Aaron needs no explanation or discussion.
Someday I hope to be able to have the courage to ask what lies inside their hearts and how that fateful day affected them.
Someday I will ask, but not today.
For better understanding you may want to read About This Blog first.
Aaron’s memorial was on a Tuesday, the following Sunday happened to be Mother’s Day. Since all our family was together for the first time in years we decided to get together and celebrate mum’s day in a local park for a BBQ.
The weather was perfect and we had a 100% attendance. The mood was light and cheery, a big weight had been taken off all our shoulders as the memorial and burial weighed heavily on our hearts.
It was nice to be outdoors in the sunshine, the little ones feeding the ducks by the pond. Plenty of food and drink and more happy faces and laughing than what I expected. It had been so long since I have witnessed all my children together of all ages the eldest being about thirty-six and the youngest eleven. The grandchildren mingling with their aunts and uncles some of who were the same age gave me a feeling of joy and pride I hadn’t experienced for such a long time. It was a great day.
A regular occurrence at our past family gatherings was full on sport or games. Touch football, cricket, baseball, soccer, capture the flag etc,with all getting involved. This day was no different.
I was right in the thick of it pushing, shoving, yelping, hollering, shouting, cheering. I usually had to relinquish my competitive sportsman like in your face hands on participation for the referees whistle keeping the peace and making sure that everyone went home in one piece. An overly competitive family thanks to me.
The only wave of sadness came on me when everyone was running around laughing, yelling, arguing, teasing, pushing and high fives going every which way.
This is where Aaron thrived. In the middle of all the action. Actually he was the one who instigated getting us all out of our lounge chairs and on the playing field no matter where we were or how many we had. He usually started most arguments too.
I was never so proud of my family watching from the sidelines each one touched by Aaron’s death in their own special way but putting aside their grief to just have fun. Soon we would all return to our respective homes and have to deal more personally on the events of the week.
But not this day. This day was special.
As the “games” and pent-up energy was released on the playing fields and as the sun was about to set, Before packing up one of my girls suggested to everyone, “why don’t we make this our annual family day. We don’t get together like this too often any more, most of us have our own families now and Christmas is no longer our family get together. Why don’t we make this time each year our Special Family Day, Aaron’s day.”
Hence the beginning our yearly get together. It has become our special day. We get together, we eat, we drink we play games. We talk, we catch up, we hug and laugh together. We shed a tear or two, maybe more but very rarely mention Aaron. We don’t have too. We know why we get together each year. We’re family and Aaron is here with us each time we get together because he lives in our hearts forever.