I still don’t know where to begin.
The last couple days have been both quite difficult and beautiful. Watching post upon post come by on my Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr feed expressing love for Aaron has moved me greatly. I love seeing how much he is loved. Stories of Aaron randomly sitting and having lunch with a Star Wars fan at DragonCon or quietly encouraging another fan that he would make a perfect Baron Fel. Or, as was more frequent, making a reader feel like they were the most important person in the world while he signed their book, because in that moment they were.
I have struggled for the words to adequately show what Aaron meant to me, and find them lacking. I see the beautiful posts that Ron Garner at Silence in the Library, and Bryan Young at Big Shiny Robot put up, or the touching personal blog posts that Maggie Allen and Conley Lyons put up, and I wonder how can I possibly add to that and everything else that has been said about Aaron?
You all know what a wonderful man he was. Mentor to all writers, whether it be pro, blogger, fanfic, whatever so long as you took it seriously he took YOU seriously. He was gracious and friendly to all his fans, no matter what was going on in his life. He made time for absolutely everyone. In the 11+ years that I knew him and spent time with him, I never heard him say a cross word about anyone. That is not to say he didn’t poke fun, because goodness knows Aaron loved to tease, joke, and playfully harass. But he never hurt feelings – he knew where the line was, and always stayed well clear of it.
There’s so much I could & want to say about Aaron, and yet, not nearly enough. And so, rather than ramble on aimlessly, I will share with you one personal story about him.
He was a man you could tell things to. I have shared things with him that I have only shared with my husband. It’s not like they are a big secret, but more like doubts, fears, and concerns that I wouldn’t want to burden anyone with, and with Aaron, he never made you feel like you were burdening him. It felt quite natural to talk to him. He was incredibly perceptive and would frequently watch the world, and always knew just what to say, and when and how to say it.
Following my first deployment to Iraq (where he made sure to send me little things and bits of humor to make me laugh), I was not doing so well. I had what I later realized was a form of PTSD. I wasn’t comfortable in large crowds, or being around people in general. A few months after I got home I was at Stellarcon, and had escaped into a corner of the lobby to get away from everyone, and who would find me, but Aaron. He sat down and just talked with me. Usually I did the talking (as anyone who knows me, knows), but this time Aaron carried the weight of the conversation.
I hadn’t mentioned a single word to him of my post deployment struggles, but he seemed to just *know*. He finally looked at me and said in a swift subject change (I don’t recall what we were talking about) “You’ll be okay.” He didn’t doubt it, and he made me feel normal, even if only for a moment.
We’d been very friendly for many years leading up to that, but in that moment we truly became friends. In the following years we became a lot closer to the point where Ron and I considered him family – he was the cool older brother neither of us ever had, and despite everything he had on his very full plate, Aaron always made time for us, and always made us feel like it was truly his pleasure to do so.
I have and always will be a fangirl at heart, and so I count myself supremely fortunate to have not just met and been mentored by Aaron, but to have been counted among his friends and loved ones. To have been able to be a part of a small portion of his life.
And so I will close with an excerpt from the lyrics of a song by Jonathan Coultan that Aaron put on a mixed CD for me a few years back. He was a big fan of Jonathan’s work, and loved the sweet sorrow of this song in particular. I can think of no better way to express what we are all surely feeling right now.
“When you go” by Jonathan Coultan
There in the frame of your face, in the cast of your eyes
I saw this coming but still
I am caught by surprise
All of this time I knew
That I’d be losing you
That doesn’t mean that it’s OK
That doesn’t mean I’m ready
Fold my heart up small
Or break it into pieces
Find somewhere and keep it there
Take it when you go