There is no such thing as winning or losing and there is no battle when it comes to terminal illnesses or incurable conditions. No one is stronger than anyone else in these cases. Instead, my brother Aaron is now and always will be, free. Sitting here at The Crossroads with my teammates, a circle of bubbles surrounding me, I am trying to allow myself some thoughts of sadness for this loss. Feel free to come along the path if it so suits you. I feel no need to be alone on this one.
15 years ago when the Peace Corps land cruiser suddenly appeared on my doorstep I, as any volunteer did, knew this meant bad news. Somehow I also knew the content of the message to be hand delivered. My younger brother was in a car accident. I’ll never forget how long it felt to take to walk down to the hotel to use their pay phone nor many times it took to finally get through to my parents and hear the news that Aaron was in a coma.
Days later I was shocked to find myself in a snowy Connecticut, borrowing clothes from Aaron’s friends as I had been in Mali so long I had forgotten what November felt like in places where there were seasons. It was literally freezing instead of the 80 degree weather I had come to be accustomed to feeling as freezing and my brother who was normally flying on his skate or snowboard was instead in a bed strapped to machines.
Beyond all comprehension, after two weeks he squeezed my hand and I knew I could return to Mali if for only briefly and I would be able to return to find him better than that moment. With my parents’ never-ending patient and fortitude, we eventually accompanied Aaron back to UCONN to receive his Bachelors of Arts degree in Photojournalism. His photographs, especially the ones he rendered in colour, caught not only a moment in time but also the spirit of the subject. Maybe it is true what people here believe, maybe the camera does steal the soul. Maybe that is why Aaron was able to withstand so much, because his soul is so strong.
Aaron’s presence within himself despite all the battering from the accident, the meningitis, the boughts of pneumonia causes me to have a belief in a soul as something separate from a body. How else could one explain the fact that Aaron was still in there? His appreciation for art and music never ceased nor did his awareness of how much we love him and his love for us was always apparent.
The last time I talked to him, I was standing in the ocean at Christmas. We listened to the waves together through the phone. He said he’d love me always and I know that is the truth. No matter what lies beyond, I know Aaron is flying. He always was in fact, the only difference is he’s now finally reached the sun.