My last post was seven months ago. I thought I had crossed the finished line, accomplished what I had set out to do. To put Aaron and his untimely suicide behind me. I understand that sometimes we think we have said everything that needs to be said on a subject. Sometimes we feel we just need to step back and take a deep breath. And there are times when we had enough of a subject and want to file it away Or maybe all three.
One of my boys, Gabriel (23) is living with his girlfriend (Rachel) and her parents while she is preparing to have her first child. It is a very exciting time in their lives. A few weeks ago tragedy hit Rachel’s family. Her dad ( 51) died in a motor bike accident.
On Facebook Rachel wrote a touching ode to her dad letting him know that his unborn baby grand-daughter would learn about her grandfather that she would never get to meet. Rachel also mentioned in a text to Rhonda and myself how surreal this experience has been thus far.
When I heard the news I knew the process, I was instantly transported back in time. I could feel their pain, their shock and that surreal feeling of “what the fuck just happened”. For a time you live in this bubble as you can feel your body move and think but in slow motion. You go through the motions of life wondering when you are going to wake up from this nightmare you are experiencing.
You wonder when your loved one is going to walk through the door then realizing that it was all a dream or a bad joke being played on you. You see your loved one in such obscure places like a shopping center, riding by on a bicycle or just waiting for a bus at the local bus stop.
Some people call this being in denial. I think it is being on the cusp of another world. Perhaps it is a way of God allowing you to slowly accept your loved one is pulling away and never coming back, as though you are still holding his hand while he is trying to leave this world. A time to adjust, not a time to mourn. Shock sets in as you do not want to believe what has happened and your mind does not accept the outcome. It’s not a miracle you anticipate but a mistake that you are hoping will right its way back to the way it was.
During this time friends and family are gathered, many coming out of hiding not having seen or heard from in years. For a short time you are insulated and protected from what inevitably will come, the grieving process. But this surreal feeling is a blessing in disguise, a place between two worlds. A time to be able to hold on and feel your loved one as though he is sitting right next to you. A feeling that you could learn to live with but reality will invade your space.
For me this surreal state lasted until just after Aaron’s funeral. We had a wake or gathering at our house of friends and family. When all our guests left including my dear wife who had to work that evening, the older children moving the party to another venue, I was left alone with our family dog who took his place at the end of our bed oblivious to our loss.
Alone for the first time grief hit me like a ton of bricks. Reality came in like a flood. My world would change at that moment never to be the same. That surreal feeling that enveloped me like cotton wool protecting me from heartache was gone. My life was going to change its ways forever.
I don’t know what type of grief Rachel and her family will face or how long it will last. It is up to the individual. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, no time limit. I do know that there is a light at the end of a very dark tunnel and when we come out the other end our life will never be the same. Some better, some worse.
I pray for Rachel, Gabriel and their unborn daughter that their end result will be for the better.
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.
I am not unlike any other parent who desires the best for their children. I try to do what ever I feel necessary to help them achieve that goal. It was important to me that my children succeed in this world.
When an old friend who I hadn’t seen for some time would ask, “how are your kids doing?”, I actually thought they really wanted to know, so I would start with the most successful or those doing the best at the time then work my way down the ladder until I could see boredom mask their face. That was my cue to stop before getting to some of my not as successful or those having a rough patch.
My bar was high but not unreachable. I wasn’t looking for any brain surgeons, Senators, elite athletes, or Albert Einsteins. No, I believed I had my expectations at a reasonable level although any of the above would be acceptable also.
A few months after Aaron’s suicide, Rhonda and I went to the States for a long over due visit. Prior to our leaving on our trip a dear friend organized for us to stop at her place, on our return. Staying with her in a distant city for some relaxation and catching up with old friends. During our stay she put together a dinner party for us, inviting some close friends and some of our family who were living in the area.
It was nice seeing everyone and we really felt loved and cared for. It was special and we are eternally grateful. Just what we needed at the time.
During dinner I was having a conversation with a friend sitting opposite us. I said with a grin, “you know our expectations for our kids have changed over the years. At one time we expected great things from them, our bar was pretty high, maybe too high for some so we lowered it. Having a job or career that they enjoyed and being happy was where we placed the bar. But in the last few months since losing Aaron we set the bar even lower. Staying alive was our new expectation.” Rhonda and I laughed, an inside joke. We actually believed this, life became the greatest commodity for our kids as far as we were concerned.
Now I don’t know if I was speaking loud enough for anyone else at the table to hear what I said but I felt like everyone froze in place and stared. I thought my friend who I was directing the comment at was going to need a blood transfusion as I could literally see his face changing color.
I have thought of that scene many times over the years. It never fails to put a smile on my face.
Of course our kids don’t need our high or low expectations nor do we need to lower or raise the bar for them. They will do that on their own, its their life and they will succeed or fail without our help.
But my expectations on life and its outcome for my children remains the same to this day.
Do what I have to do to keep them alive and trust God that He will help them with the rest.
In the beginning I would visit Aaron’s grave site at least once a week, sometimes more. I would always go alone, I would always cry, I would always cry uncontrollably. Words were at a premium but my tears told the story. If he was listening he got the point.
I only stayed long enough to let him know I was there, that I was hurting and I was mad at him for leaving us so suddenly without warning. It wasn’t fair to me, his mother, his brothers and sisters and his nieces and nephews.
I don’t know if he was still hanging around but I had read that sometimes the spirit of the deceased would stay for a while, sometimes watching the aftermath of their actions or perhaps they even desired to do so before entering the after world.
I had a photo of Aaron put on his headstone so we could always have a face to face on our visits.
He never talked back ,not that I expected it although an explanation would have been good. So many questions left unanswered. But I did make sure at least one question was asked on every visit.
Only he knew the answer to that one and he wasn’t talking. Not to me anyway.
My visits would sometimes last no more than three or four minutes, rarely longer and usually shorter. Long enough to let my emotions get away with me. Where better than a well maintained cemetery where a father can cry publicly and get away with it.
As time wore on and my grief was somewhat under control, I would test my resolve by seeing how long I could be by his grave side looking at his picture before I fell apart. Two seconds were my shortest, unless you count falling apart from the car to the headstone. I don’t count that, its like points being taken away before you get into the boxing ring.
Ten seconds were about the longest I could last.
Months go by and I am still visiting at least once a week without fail. My visits become more of a personal test. I would talk myself up and say, “today, I don’t cry, today I am a big boy”. The harder I tried the more I cried. I have always been an emotional person but this was getting ridiculous although I had no intention of stopping my visits or trying to hold back my emotions.
On one visit, maybe 3 or 4 months after his death, no sooner had I stepped out of the car, that I knew something was different. As I walked toward his grave a peace came over me I hadn’t felt in years. I knew immediately what it was. Aaron was gone, he was no longer with us or he was no longer tormenting me at his grave.
To this day I don’t know if Aaron let go and made his peace or I let him go.
I was so happy and relieved. I smiled, I laughed, I waved goodbye and of course I cried. But these tears were now tears of joy.
The desire to visit Aaron’s grave after that day vanished. I gave it no more thought. Just like that.
It was months before I visited again. Yes, I cried. It would not have been the same if I hadn’t but the visits became increasingly farther apart each time.
About six months ago I stopped by for a short visit. I wanted to let him know that I am no longer trying to survive his death, that I had become a survivor.
Sitting in the car preparing to go home I smiled. I hadn’t shed a tear. I laughed out loud.
I whispered…”I’m a big boy now”…well, most of the time.
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.
Its two in the morning Rhonda’s phone beeps, a text has been sent. She turns on the light, grabs her glasses and reads the message half asleep. One of the kids asking if she was doing anything. If not could she pick him up from the city as he has no other way home.
My dear wife works twelve-hour days and to say she is tired at night when she crawls into bed is an understatement. Without missing a beat she texts back, “tell me where you are, I’m on my way.” She jumps out of bed gets dressed, grabs her bag and heads for the door in her pajamas.
Me with my eyes closed can picture her every move. This scene has played itself out a hundred times.
“May I remind you” I say, my eyes still glued shut, “that before he went out you told him he needs to find his own way home. You don’t have to do this”. .
“Yes I do” she says.
“Because I can, because I’m a mother, because that’s what I do.”
“Ok, you win, drive safe…..”.
Rhonda takes pride in being a mother, she loves it and she relishes the daily mundane challenges each child presents.
Broken arms, severe burns, heartbreak, bullying at school, low grades, health issues, sibling wars, police matters, teenagers, the list goes on.
Rhonda is right in the midst of it at all times, always ready to fix any problem big or small. She may not have all the answers but you can be sure she will go about finding someone who does.
One morning while having a cup of coffee together,(not many days after Aaron’s death), we were caught up in our own thoughts enjoying one of those special moments without having to speak. We were still in the “what on God’s good earth just happened to us” state of confusion.
We were understandably having a hard time accepting Aaron was no longer with us, that he would never show up unannounced anymore, that we would never see him again at a family gathering was difficult coming to terms with.
Breaking our silence Rhonda blurted out, “you can’t fix dead”.
She looked over at me to see if I had heard what she said, I did and I looked at her for an explanation.
She said, “you know, I have this philosophy in life that as long as there is a pulse,there is life and where there is life there is hope. When we have hope I have the belief that if there is a problem or one of our kids needs fixing it can be done. But you can’t fix dead. Aaron can’t be fixed anymore.”
We went back to sipping our coffee giving more attention to our own thoughts.
From time to time when we hear of a suicide our hearts go out to the survivors, the loved ones left behind. We understand the unwanted journey that each one must travel. We would look at each other and sigh, sometimes one of us would say, ” “you can’t fix dead”.
Now it impresses us even more that we can and should try even harder to fix those who still have a pulse.
For better understanding you may want to read About This Blog first.
When Rhonda called from the police station with the news about Aaron’s death I wasn’t surprised. A father’s intuition.
When I hung up the phone I gave it a few minutes to sink in. I wanted to start making phone calls to the kids and break the news but first things first.
I went to the front door, opened it, stuck my head out and looked up toward the heavens. It was dark by this time and no one around to witness my outburst.
I screamed at God, then gave Jesus a what for. What I said is not printable and I wouldn’t want to repeat it even if it was.
I didn’t want to fall victim to His come back so I quickly ducked back inside for safety. Yeah, right, like running in the house would protect me anyway.
My outburst lasted no more than a fraction of a second. I was so ashamed of myself but I just felt I needed someone to be mad at and more importantly, blame.
I was mad at God for letting it happen, for not stopping Aaron and for just being so inconsiderate of how it was going to affect me and my family.
Hate is a strong word but it is the only one to describe my feelings toward God at this time.
But sanity prevailed. I needed to pick on someone my own size or better yet another human.
That little outburst at least got the anger part out of my system for the time being. It was replaced by a myriad of emotions from heartache, confusion, guilt and sadness.
Anger would have its chance to surface again but not now.
Somehow I made it through the next week, the funeral, family and friends and going back to work.
Anger was always close at hand, just simmering wanting to find a way to the surface. I felt more and more compelled to find someone I could hold responsible for this tragedy in my life to feed my anger.
It was time to play the blame game.
God got a free pass for obvious reasons, although there are still a few questions I’d like to ask Him but that will have to wait for another time.
I started with the prime suspect, me.
I would look in the bathroom mirror and stare.
“It’s all your fault” I said.
I needed to be more convincing.
“IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT”,I screamed my head so as not to draw attention.
One more time I thought just to get the point across.
“ITS ALL YOUR FAULT” emphasizing each word as I said it.
With the finger firmly pointed in my direction it was time to tell me why it is my fault. Blame has to have a good reason.
- You’re a lousy father. (yeah good one)
- God is punishing you for your secret sins (no argument there)
- If you weren’t so caught up in your own world you could have done something to stop it. (ouch, below the belt)
I beat the crap out of myself on a regular basis.
But I wasn’t going to take all the blame, no sir. I was going to share the misery around a bit.
My dear wife was on my radar. She not only had to fight her own personal demons and battles but she also had no choice but to fight with me on mine.
If I was willing to take the blame because I was a bad father then she had to fess up to her part in the crime.
Over the course of time, I would bring up how I felt we as parents failed Aaron. We had to come clean and acknowledge what lousy parents we have been.
It would start off as a normal discussion about a seemingly innocuous topic. When she wasn’t seeing it I upped the volume until I was in a screaming match. Blame with anger, it never fails to get a rise.
It always ended in my dear sweet wife crying but God bless her, she never gave in. She knew she was a good mum to her kids and did the best she knew how. She thought if that wasn’t good enough then so be it but she wasn’t going to take the blame for Aaron’s death.
After many rounds in the ring I threw in the white towel of surrender. She was right, I was wrong.
I turned my attention to the one person who I could make the blame stick. Aaron himself.
I got so mad at him on so many occasions I thought my head was going to explode. After all he was the one who did it to himself.
I have his picture, a small three by five in a nice little frame sitting next to my computer. Over the years we have had many conversations. One way I might add as he never spoke back. Not yet anyway.
There were times I was so upset at him I would put his picture face down, like sending him to his room for being naughty. If I was really mad at him I put his photo in the bedside table drawer. I wouldn’t let him out until I forgave him.
I even remember telling him one day in the midst of one of my blame sessions.
“When I get to heaven young man I’m going to give your the biggest hug you could ever imagine, then I’m going to kick your ass”.
The good news is; I don’t get mad at God anymore. He forgave me. I don’t get mad at my dear wife anymore, I forgave myself. I don’t get mad at Aaron any more. I forgave him.
And I don’t get mad at myself anymore because I stopped playing the blame game. Not that I don’t want to from time to time, but now I know its not good for me.
For better understanding you may want to read About This Blog first.
When we received Aaron’s death certificate it read “cause of death undetermined” meaning the coroner had not completed his findings on the cause of death. More than a month later I got a call from the coroner who wanted to fill me in of what he knew and to ask a few questions so he could complete his report.
He told me that there was no alcohol or drugs in Aaron’s system and then proceeded to ask some questions about his mental health and lifestyle etc. My answers were guarded, I think because I have a tendency to distrust strangers about my personal life and that of my family. It’s not that I was trying to evade his questions although I must confess I wasn’t making it easy for him to get a straight answer out of me.
He then asked if there was anyone else in the family who he could speak to that could shed some light on Aaron’s background. I directed him to my eldest daughter Lisa, who was most involved with Aaron at the time as he working in her cafe.
The next day Lisa calls and mentions her conversation with the coroner and how he felt that I was “in denial”. OK, fair enough but denial over what?
I knew that Aaron died. I knew that he walked in front of a speeding truck. I knew he would never be coming home. I knew he took his own life, I knew he would never be at another Christmas dinner or family function. So what was I in denial about?
It’s not like I was going to bed at night, reaching over and kissing my wife goodnight then say, “let’s get some sleep, I want to get up early so I can put the coffee on for Aaron when he comes home.”
No, I knew exactly what was going on.
There was obviously so many things I was confused about and didn’t understand but being in denial was not one of those things.
In saying that I must give the coroner the benefit of the doubt because delving into my memory bank I must confess he may have a case for “denial”,
The only person who knew about my loss from my work place as a mail contractor was my immediate boss. I never said a word to any of my work colleagues about my son’s death. I didn’t want any undue attention, I didn’t want any one to feel awkward around me. I am a very private person and I wanted to keep it that way.
The Christmas before April 2008 our dear kids all pitched in and gave my wife and myself Air Tickets and organized accommodation so we could go back to my home town in the United States for a holiday. I hadn’t been back for nearly forty years so it was a very special gift. We already had our tickets booked for June 2008. Two months after Aaron’s death.
We had considered postponing the trip as we knew we would still be quit raw emotionally. We were encouraged to continue with our plans as apparently it would be good for us to get away.
I asked Rhonda before we left for the states if it would be okay if we could not mention that Aaron took his own life.
My sister is my only living close relative along with her two grown married children. We spent most of our time with her. Of course she knew of the tragedy as it happened but I never told her that he intentionally walked in front of a truck.
Why? Because I was ashamed that one of my kids would do what I thought was an unthinkable selfish act. My pride got in the way and I refused at the time to allow myself to talk about it. I was confused and ashamed. Not in denial. I knew exactly what I was doing by not revealing the whole truth.
Was I confused? Absolutely.
Were there unanswered questions. You bet.
Was it a touchy subject for me? No doubt.
Was I in Denial? Not a chance.
But, and just maybe there could have been one small incident that could be interpreted and possibly sway the pendulum toward self-denial.
The week I went back to work after the funeral I was sitting in my van preparing to make a delivery at a shopping center. My eyes lifted just as a young man passed by. I didn’t see his face but from behind he looked and walked like Aaron.
I was miffed, could that be him? I had to see his face. I don’t know what I was thinking. Getting out of my van I followed the poor guy and I was off for my first ever stalking adventure. My short legs were having a hard time keeping up with this guy so I had to put on the after burners to get far enough in front of him to see his face.
Out of breath and far enough in front I did a stop and turn all in one motion like I was lost. I got a good look at this guy who looked nothing like my son. I felt pretty silly but not foolish enough to think if even for a moment that maybe, just maybe I was in a bad dream or worse, someone was playing a bad joke on me.
I will confess that for that brief moment and only the one time I may have been, just maybe “in-denial”.
For better understanding you may want to read About This Blog first.
I’m the organizer between Rhonda and myself so I took the reins in getting the ball in motion for all the work needed to be done to lay Aaron to rest.
My daughter Heidi helped me with the funeral preparations, Jesse put together a video memorial of Aaron to be shown at the service and our dear friend Rose helped put together the after party at our home.
And with family and friends arriving from interstate and overseas it turned out to be a welcome distraction. I had plenty to keep me busy so as not to miss Aaron too much. It turned out I would have plenty of time for that later.
I had only been to one funeral in my life. My grandfather died when I was seventeen. He was dying of lung cancer for many painful months before he died. It was more of a relief to everyone although his suffering was unbearable to some especially my mother. I don’t remember much of that day so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one.
All the men in our family wore black at the funeral.I’m not sure if that was a conscious decision or just worked out that way. It turned out that black was a good way to describe the mood.
“Lots of grief” ,a friend posted on her Facebook page who was at the funeral. I don’t disagree.
I didn’t know what to expect at the funeral service. Our immediate family gathered before any guests arrived, so the immediate family could view his body that was lying in a room set off to the side of the front stage podium. I watched as his siblings along with his mum made their way to see, touch and say their goodbyes and have one final look at their brother and son.
I stayed in my seat in the front row of the podium where the service would be held. I wasn’t about to budge. I didn’t go to the morgue the night we were called in to identify Aaron’s body. I left that to Rhonda and two of my boys, Jonathan and Daniel who for their own reasons were eager to go.
To see my boy lying on a cold slab in a sterile room or lying in a casket fully dressed was not on my to-do list. I wanted to remember Aaron alive.
One of my girls came and sat next to me and encouraged me to go and see his body that it would do me good.
For what ever reasons she thought I needed to view his body and what good it would do for me I knew she meant well. I wanted to rebel like a two-year old who was being made to eat his broccoli.
To keep things civil I reluctantly dragged myself over with the others and stood before my son. I looked,I touched his hand, I said I love you and left to take up my position in the front row once again.
It was painless and took no more than ten seconds.
Yes I admit, he looked peaceful and he looked as though he went to sleep and never woke up. They did a good job. But when I touched his hand, it was cold and lifeless. I pulled my hand away quick smart lest I catch something I didn’t want.
The funeral service was a family affair.
Heidi took on the role as MC.
My youngest daughter started proceedings by reading a poem.
We allowed anyone who wanted to unburden their hearts or talk about their relationship with Aaron access to the podium. I smiled, cried, laughed and was touched by all who spoke.
The highlight was the video memorial of Aaron’s life. It touched us and helped us to understand regardless of how his life ended he will always be remembered as our loving son, brother, uncle and friend in life as well as death.
The prayer duties were given to Aaron’s brother Brian.
After the service we laughed and cried with our guests before the casket was brought out to be taken to the cemetery for burial.
Watching the faces of Aaron’s brothers who were carrying out his casket brought me great pride. The survivors of a brothers bad decision.
These were now my heroes, those that would continue their lives with one less sibling at their side.
I was never so proud of these boys as I was at this moment. I would love and cherish them in a different way from here on out.
As we piled in our cars to follow the Hearst to the cemetery to lay Aaron to rest I had a sense of relief that we made it over the first hurdle.
It turned out to be one of the easier ones.
For better understanding you may want to read About This Blog first.
The last time I saw Aaron we had a disagreement. It wasn’t an argument, no one getting angry just a normal garden variety unresolved difference of opinion that sent each of us on our separate ways feeling uneasy. I watched Aaron walk away and I couldn’t help but feel he left somewhat discouraged. I know I was.
I never spoke to him again and one week later he took his life.
I don’t believe for one moment that this little misunderstanding between us had anything to do with him committing suicide. I have no doubts about that.
I tried my hardest to recreate that day over and over again trying to convince myself that the conversation we had ended differently. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.
In the days, weeks and months that followed that last memory and conversation with Aaron has haunted me. I just wanted to make things right, to know in my heart that me and Aaron were good, no bad feelings between us. But there are no do overs in life where there is death.
Growing up, Aaron and I had the normal father son relationship that you find in large families. He was one of the clan, no special attention (except as a baby) and not much personal one on one time. When he was of age and left home he spent a lot of time overseas, so much of our contact was via letter writing.
When he returned from living overseas, being away quite a few years, I had to get to know a completely different man. He was wanting to start his life over, settle down and look toward a career.
Considering his options he expressed his desire to study law and become a defense lawyer or a policeman. Now thats an oxymoron if there ever was one.
We did have one thing in common that was special to both of us. We loved sports, playing it and following it.
Aaron took everything very seriously and was quite intense so I knew how to get under his skin. When watching or talking sport I always took the opposing side. I loved seeing him getting riled up. On one occasion when we were watching the Rugby World cup he was such a patriotic fan, Go Aussies.
I said to him, “you know, Australia is my second favorite team in this world cup.
“Who’s the first” he asked.
“All the other teams” I told him.
He was fuming. He called me unpatriotic.
We also knew when to stop if we were barracking for different teams. An unwritten rule we had, nothing said after winning or losing. We could each walk away with some pride and no hard feelings. That was important to both of us. If we crossed the line, a simple hug and an “I love you” was suffice to make things right.
Revisiting that last conversation and meeting with Aaron I know I could never take it back or do anything to make it right. Eventually it did become a turning point in how I began to view each “last” conversation with all of my children.
If there any misunderstandings, bad feelings, harsh words, negative body language or anything that caused tension at the end of any exchange with any of my children no matter how old or how far away they lived, I made every effort to make it a priority to get things right, ASAP.
I would usually call, text or email my apologies, say I was sorry for how we ended our last encounter and try to move on. I’m so thankful my kids understand me and are always quick to forgive. Even if it wasn’t my fault. Ha
Of course this parenting technique is probably not the best example to follow but it has worked for me.
It’s not a permanent solution but I am completely happy with band-aid tactics until I am comfortable with knowing that not every disagreement and argument is going to lead to someone going over the edge.
But it does leave me with a peaceful feeling knowing me and my kids are good.