Submitted by Leslie Harkness:
When Aaron and I were married in August 2002, our hopes and dreams of starting a family felt so close and we started trying to have a baby right away. After a few disappointing years, loads of tests and surgery… in March 2005, we were finally pregnant because of the miracle of artificial insemination. We were thrilled and so excited to be parents. That December, Aaron Jr. was born and our family was finally growing. He was a joy in our home and we adored him. Nearly two years later, after trying to get pregnant again, even through some failed attempts at artificial insemination, we were just two weeks away from attempting the procedure again when my husband Aaron, very unexpectedly, passed away on November 29, 2007. We were both just 30 years old.
Without warning, my best friend and the father of my child was gone. Our lives were shattered and the pain and grief were almost unbearable. Two days after Aaron passed away, we celebrated Aaron Jr’s second birthday. Then three days after that, we celebrated Aaron’s life at his funeral service. I don’t know if Aaron Jr knew about what was going on that day. He has always been the happiest and most cheerful child I have ever known, but in those days, he was still cheerful, but he also seemed a little disconnected and a little more somber. The day of the funeral, I was still in shock. I still could not believe that Aaron was gone and that my life had come to this… a widow at age 30, the ‘single’ mother of a little boy who didn’t get to grow up knowing his father. I felt completely empty and I no longer felt complete. I felt very much alone and it was difficult to find joy each day. The world kept turning somehow, but I didn’t feel like I was living life with everyone else. I felt like I was standing still watching life go on around me. I didn’t know how to continue without Aaron. In this photo at the funeral with the casket, the looks on our faces say it all. The shock of it all makes me look completely stoic… and I just felt entirely broken.
As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, Aaron Jr and I tried to find our new normal and to find joy in the days that seemed to feel like anything but normal. We turned to the Lord and found peace and comfort. I looked to my son and found joy. I made a decision that if I didn’t want to live for myself, I would surely live for my son. And by living for my son, I learned again what life is all about… achieving true joy throughout our journey. Aaron Jr is one of my heroes. If it hadn’t been for him, I would not have found my smile and my laughter as quickly as I did. My child was strong and cheerful when I felt like I couldn’t be, and yet, because he needed me… I was given strength that was not my own in order to continue being the mother I hoped to be.
In the past two and a half years, Aaron Jr and I have tried to find joy in our days even through the grief of missing Aaron so much. I feel blessed every day that I have the honor of being this little boy’s mom. I am so grateful for the love he has for me and I am grateful for the overwhelming love I have for him. In the second photo, I love to look at the joy in our faces. It is a testament to how far we have come in our journey. The contrast between the photo at the funeral and the photo of us laughing and playing brings tears to my eyes because I know and remember the heartache and miracles found in that journey from one place to the next. It invokes emotions and it makes me feel so grateful that we have truly achieved joy in this journey. I am truly blessed to be Aaron Jr’s Mom.