Aaron my friend and mentor part two ‘The Best Year and the Worst Year’ – by Derek Dwilson
I knew a man named Aaron. He died at age 35.
Aaron was a religious fanatic. Aaron was a health fanatic. And Aaron was very very smart.
Aaron was so smart, that he got a scholarship to college. Aaron figure out that the scholarship paid for all the classes you want, but only for two years.
Not wanting to waste money, Aaron took twice the number of classes at a time. He still graduated at the top of his class.
While Aaron was blazing a trail through college, he also met and married an upperclassman beauty of his choosing. This was all the more impressive, because as he would readily admit, he was not an attractive man.
Aaron was that rare nerd who exuded confidence.
Aaron was brilliant, but he was also often misunderstood. Sometimes Aaron made people uncomfortable. Sometimes it was on purpose.
Aaron did not respect anyone’s right to be comfortable. He would ask uncomfortable questions. Say inappropriate things just to see how you react. Aaron had the habit of being a little too honest. All that mattered to him was getting at truth by any means necessary.
That is because Aaron idolized another guy who died in his early thirties. Aaron thought, rightly so, that Jesus saw truth as a universal good.
But Aaron took it further than that. He thought that seeking truth with sincerity is the most important endeavor in life. He thought the niceties that stood in the way of true understanding should be done away with in favor of the greater good that is truth. Even if it became uncomfortable. Aaron was a steadfast and committed adherent to the principle I would come to know as “Intellectual Honesty”. And Intellectual Honesty became something of an obsession with him.
Aaron was an idealist and a determined man. He was a father already by the time I met him. And he would go on to father another nine children with his only wife by the time he passed at age 35.
If that sounds like a wild ride, then just you wait. It gets weirder.
While Aaron was winning at life – living with his new wife and wrecking house in college, he also volunteered at church. A lot. Well not at church, which he attended several times a week. WITH church.
Because he was a Bible Quiz coach. Bible Quiz is where you memorize books of the Bible, and then go to competitions to test your knowledge vs. other people. It’s an amazing sport and because of Aaron, I was in it.
Aaron had us practicing 4 hours twice per week and going to every tournament in the nation. Cramming into his tiny car and driving to Pennsylvania or Houston or Las Vegas – this was not uncommon. In the one year that Aaron was my coach, we must have gone to a dozen tournaments or more. And we were also developing a deep and lasting friendship that would last our entire lives.
I looked up to Aaron and I wanted to be like him.
Aaron finished his degree and he knew what he had to do next. He had a scholarship to grad school, and he wan’t going to let that pass him by. Aaron was planning to become a professor at a Bible college, and advanced degrees were required. He moved to Missouri to prepare for school.
But he also took me with him. Me and my teammates. The Bible Quiz season was a month from being over, and he couldn’t just abandon us right before the big tournament. He let us move in and sleep in a guest room. We did this for an entire month.
We also gave up sugar for that month and fasted for 8 hours a day, but that’s a story for another time.
We went to the national Bible Quiz tournament, and my teammate tore it up. Hundred of participants, and Michael was the very best. Me? Not so much. Nothing like Michael at least. Our team took fourth place, though we were very close to winning it all.
We said our goodbyes and Aaron began his master’s degree coursework. This was the last time I saw Aaron on this trajectory, because tragedy was about to strike.
You see, Aaron’s body had been trying to kill him for a long time. Aaron had a strong will to live, and his internal organs didn’t want anything to do with it.
He suffered from intestine afflictions from the time he was young. In response, Aaron became very smart about medicine and food and nutrition. He was forced to experiment and analyze and study – just to stay ahead of it.
For a long time, he was ahead of it. But in graduate school – it got the best of him. It hit and it hit hard.
Aaron went to the hospital to be treated, and ended up staying there for quite some time. It nearly financially ruined him. And in the process, his doctors made a huge mistake. They made it worse.
And Aaron, ever the optimist, told me that he was really glad they made that mistake. Because he was going to benefit from it.
You see, as it turned out, the hospital knew that they made a mistake. And in an effort to avoid liability they had decided to fly in another doctor. A better doctor. One that Aaron could never have afforded. And the hospital was going to pay for it.
Aaron counted this a miracle, and if I’m being honest I have to wonder if he may have been right. Were it not for that new doctor, Aaron’s life may have ended then and there. But this time in the hospital took a toll on Aaron in more ways than one.
Aaron’s struggle with Opioid withdraws are a matter of public record, and this was where that started. His doctors, in an attempt to ease his suffering, had inadvertently cause Aaron to have a debilitating addiction. One that he would eventually defeat, but not before suffering a great deal.
The story about how Aaron finally kicked his addiction is an amazing one, and one worth telling in Part three.