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Friday, July 23, 2010

He'll always be 'Firman'

July 23, 2010
MEGHAN SANDBERG, The Enterprise-Bulletin

Aron's friend, Meghan Sandberg, provided this to his father after Aron's funeral service. She has provided her permission to republish it here [in The Enterprise-Bulletin].

During Aron's service when the opportunity was given for people to share their memories of Aron, dad nudged me and gave me his little finger wave in an effort to get me to share my memories of Aron--and more importantly my recent conversations with him.

Unfortunately my emotions did not allow me to do so, but as I wandered the house last night trying to console a sick baby, Doreen's words about Aron kept creeping into my head.

At first it was her words about the lack of sleep you endured during the first few years of his life (which, knowing Aron, probably happened again in his teen years). I began chuckle to myself. Then I began to think of both of your words, "he is my son," and Doreen's statement that she did not want him to be remembered for his illness--she wanted him to be remembered as she saw him, as you both saw him, as your child. A happy smiling boy.

When I think of this statement I think of the first conversation I had with Aron after high school. Since moving around the corner from Aron's house on St. Marie Street, I had seen him numerous times out walking, head down not making eye contact.

I, being like many people who had lost contact with him, assumed that he did not remember me--but one day, for some reason, I piped up and said "Hey Firman!"

Immediately his head rose and a beaming smile came across his face. He eagerly replied "Hey Meghan! How's it going?" That smile, when I think of it now, was, for lack of a better word at the moment, absolutely gorgeous.

Perhaps I caught him on a happy day where he just felt like smiling, maybe he was thankful that that awkward, "to say hello or not to say hello" dilemma was over (I know I was), or maybe he was happy to have the opportunity to caringly pick on me once again; whatever the reasoning behind that smile it definitely could have lit up a room.

After that day whenever I was out walking he walked with me. Some days it was only a block or two and others spanned an hour. This is where my "caringly picking on me" comment comes from.

When I entered Grade 9, Amanda and I began to hang out with Aron, Scott, Simon, Tim and Mike. Since we were all getting to know each other everyone was overly nice (Amanda and I no doubt thinking "cool we are hanging out with the Grade 10," and, as Aron so eloquently phrased it back then, the boys were trying to pick up the "fresh meat!"). Actually I should say that everyone was overly nice to each other except Aron and I.

Sure we were nice enough, but thanks to cottaging at the Mitchell's and numerous family gatherings he felt it was OK to pick on me a little, and I in turn had no problem telling him what I thought of his little jokes. After all I was "just Sandberg" to him, he could say whatever he wanted.

This relationship our walks. Aron's ability to change the topic of conversation 10 times in a five-minute walk brought this relationship back. If I got lost as to what we were talking about he would poke fun at me for being slow or tell me it was too complicated for me to understand anyways.

I would shout back "no" and try to justify my reasons for being lost-- which would only result in another change of topic (laughing out loud).

One day about six weeks ago while out for a walk with Hunter I was approached by a resident of the group home, hassling me for money. Having been approached before by this individual and having witnessed her hassle other people (but never when I was alone with Hunter) I was very agitated and attempting to hold my composure.

Just as I was beginning to feel overwhelmed, Aron walked out of the residence's back yard and told her to leave me alone. Of course she didn't but Aron didn't let her away with it. He raised his voice and told her to shut up and go home. He then walk with me in silence until Tim Horton's where he asked me if I was OK and then went in for a coffee.

As I sit and think about it now this may have been the last time I time I talked to Aron. After that day I did not walk past the residence alone and I only saw Aron from a far when Adam, Hunter and I walked by.

As some one who knew Aron both before and during his illness, I want to let you know that I will not remember him for his illness or for what has happened to him, or let it define who he was in my mind or the mind of anyone who speaks to me about him. I am happy that I had the opportunity to walk and talk with him this last year and to see what you already knew, he never changed.

To me he will always be "Firman."

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