In mid May of 2008, I’d committed to go to the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, where I’d agreed to moderate a panel. As it has on so many years, S&S fell on Mother’s Day weekend, and that year in particular, I struggled about being away and was on the verge of canceling. There were no particular new developments with Mother’s health. I was seeing her every day, and she’d been getting increasingly frail, and her memory might come and go, but she’d entered a new phase, one I was familiar with from the trajectory of my father’s illness, in which she was less engaged, more docile, more resigned.
Everyone told me I should go to New Orleans; Mother wasn’t going to know that it was Mother’s Day anyway. But I still wavered. I talked to her home healthcare nurse and her hospice liaison. If I wanted to, I could consider my weekend away respite care, and she could be moved into hospice for those few days. But they felt like she was doing well in her residential care home and thought the move to and from the hospice facility might confuse her. I knew Tom would be in Houston to visit her and let me know if I needed to come home, but my decision was ultimately made when I received a call from Aaron’s mother, Lisa. Lisa said she’d bring Aaron to see his grandmother for Mother’s Day weekend.
That provided instant relaxation and made my decision for me. Not only did Mother and Lisa have a great relationship, but Lisa was especially sensitive to her health challenges, and seeing Aaron always delighted my mother. I knew I was leaving her in capable, loving hands with all of them.
After their visit, Lisa and I talked by phone. We discussed the changes from the last time they’d seen my mother, but mostly we talked about the special relationship between Aaron and his grandmother. Aaron was only fourteen then; I well remember what an awkward age that can be, and dealing with someone who’s in the last stages of her life must be particularly daunting. Not for Aaron, though. He was never shy about showing his grandmother affection, and Lisa said on that Mother’s Day, he climbed right into bed next to Mother and talked to her, laughed with her, and listened to her. The two of them had a great visit–I think it was probably their last one before she died on June 1.
At the beginning of this year, when I anticipated these legacy writing posts, I knew December 19 would be a special one. It’s Aaron’s birthday; he’d have been nineteen today. I had stories planned to tell about him, including that last Mother’s Day with his grandmother. I never imagined that he wouldn’t be with his family, that we wouldn’t be talking on the phone or texting or exchanging Tweets today. It’s been almost eight months since he died, and it still doesn’t seem real.
Mother was with Lisa and David the December day when Aaron was born. I wasn’t there, but they sent me lots of photos.
Mother holding her fifth grandchild.
Baby Aaron with his fingers wrapped around David’s finger.
A few days later, Aaron had his first Christmas.
David holding Bailey the dog, Mother holding Aaron’s older sister Heather, and Lisa holding Aaron. His big brother Daniel hadn’t moved to SLC with his family yet. His little brother Alex would be born a few years later.
Aaron the littlest baseball player.
These are the days I want to remember. That first birthday and every other day we were privileged to share with him. Aaron has always been given so much love, and he reflected it right back to everyone who knew him. I want to think of him laughing with his grandmother, teasing his mother, telling stories with his brothers and cousins, having conversations with his father, speaking with love of his sister, getting to know all of his extended family and our friends, especially Tim, Lynne, Lindsey, and Rhonda.
Tonight, Lindsey and Rhonda brought Starbucks, and we had a cookie feast, thanks to Marika and Puterbaugh, to celebrate Aaron’s birthday.
We miss you, Aaron, and we remember your beautiful spirit, your compassion, your humor, and your gentleness. We love you. Always.