No one would have seen it coming, least of all me. His death was inevitable: that part we all knew was coming.
But no one would have foreseen my reaction to it. Not the way it happened, not the way the emotional slideshow of me slowly played out like a blocked garden-hose building in pressure, waiting for the almighty explosion that eventually would come.
My Dad told me: ‘Aaron’s died.’ We were on our way home from our shared workplace, an hour and ten minute drive from the city to the country, where we lived. He did a good job, my Dad. Quiet. Calm. Matter of fact, but caring. My Aunty was the one that received the news. He’d been ill, which on top of the cystic fibrosis had finally proven too much for his already fragile body to handle. Someone should tell Brooke.
I’m not sure why Dad chose an hour long car ride to do it. Perhaps he and Mum felt it would allow me time to let it wash over me, I’m really not sure what they had expected. But one thing I do imagine they expected were tears.
There were none.
Not a single one.
When he’d broken up with me, I’d constructed a wall about a million miles high, and equally as wide to protect me from both the feeling of being rejected without proper means, and the feeling of loss I’d surely feel in the face of losing him. We both still cared for each other very much. Very much. Though, for family reasons that are a little too personal to share, here, he felt it best he protect his final years as best he could. By saying goodbye to me. I understood. Still, it hurt.
On New Years Eve (his very last one, as it would turn out) he called me at my Aunties house, where I’d escaped the boring walls of home for a much needed holiday. ‘Is Chookie there?’ he asked, to my Aunties amusement. I took the phone, smiled at my Aunty, and fell into our world, again. He’d missed me. I’d missed him, too. We laughed and chatted for a bit. Finally, we said goodbye.
A few months later, Aaron was gone. He was about twenty, from memory: I was eighteen. And I didn’t care at all that he was gone, and I absolutely would not be attending his funeral, so they could all just go on and forget about that, ridiculous nonsense.
The day of the funeral came. I got up, as usual, and made the long trip in with my Dad where I began my daily routine. Pick, pack, tape up the box. Pick, pack, tape up the box. I’m not sure what part of the work induced the explosion. Perhaps it was the ripping sound the tape makes when it whirls off the tape gun, or perhaps it was simply the fact that I was at work, in the first place. All anybody knew was that one moment I was fine. The next, I was wailing. Sobbing in the most out of control fashion I could muster.
My Dad took me to the train station. If I caught the early train, I should make it to the funeral on time, and so I boarded the V-Line back to the country and off I went to say my last goodbye to Aaron. Technically, not my Aaron, anymore. But, according to my heart…still very much, my Aaron, apparently.
The train ride was interesting. The poor lady across from me did her very best to pretend my dark sunglasses hid my tears (and quietened the accidental sob that sometimes escaped me. Meep.) The dusty town I arrived in was quiet, too. No one would notice as I wandered along the streets, searching for a church I’d never been to before, in a town I’d never been to before.
I wouldn’t ask for directions, either. More accurately, I couldn’t ask for directions, on account of me being that odd girl: too shy to talk to any human outside of her comfort zone. So I asked the universe for directions. My plan was (and this is no joke) to follow whichever direction my hair blew in the wind, because certainly whatever higher forces I was connected to would get me to the funeral. Bonus points if they got me there on time.
I walked. And walked. And walked.
Finally, and with no thanks at all to my hair, I found the church. A little late, but early enough. The funeral had just begun.
‘Chookie,’ Aaron’s beautiful Mum said, after the service, as she wrapped me in her arms, and thanked me for coming to say goodbye to her baby boy. She seemed happy to see me (really, really happy) and in that moment…I knew the explosion of me was meant to happen, that I was meant to be there. For Aaron, but for his beautiful family, too.
They may not have noticed my absence if I’d not gone: the church was overflowing with hundreds, all of whom, apparently, Aaron had touched with his cheekiness, joy and boundless wisdom, too.
But I was there. And his family did notice.
I was grateful.
Grateful the morning had brought about the most unexpected emotional explosion, ever to have rocked my world.
And grateful my inner walls had crumbled.
Right in the nick of time.