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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

4 things I learned from Aaron Rodenbaugh

I didn’t know Aaron Rodenbaugh very well, but I love him just the same.

It's amazing how life can come back full circle.  When I moved into the neighborhood 27 years ago, I was 14 years-old and Aaron Rodenbaugh was a toddler.  Our families attended the same Mormon church, but ironically I was friends with Aaron’s mom Jill before I ever moved to Mesa.  I lived in Layton, UT from age 4 to age 11.  Jill’s family and mine attended the same Mormon church there.  Jill’s little sister Sherry was one of my closest friends in the neighborhood.  Sherry and I had play dates and sleepovers.  Mainly, I remember how funny Sherry was.  We played and laughed, played and laughed.  Aaron’s mom, Jill was Sherry’s cool big sister; the girl getting her hair ready for a high school dance or running out the door to meet with friends.  When my family moved out of Utah, I couldn’t imagine I’d befriend Sherry’s older sister Jill later in my life in Mesa, AZ.

So, when Jill and I became reacquainted, we were instant friends.  Jill is a giver, the type of girl who’s always surrounded by little children because they love her so and she’s a dedicated mother to her sons.

In honor of Aaron Rodenbaugh
July 1988 to November 2013

This last week, I have felt close to a young man I barely knew.  Perhaps it was because I was serving his family.  Here is what I have learned:

1. Through God’s love, I can know someone I really didn’t know
I really only knew the baby Aaron; the apple of his parent’s eye and the little toddler who wobbled around church, but through pictures and stories and impressions, I feel like I know him so much more.  I am impressed with his strength and because I have strong, yet gentle brothers and a strong, yet gentle husband, I can see the gentle side of Aaron in every picture I look at.  He played football and lifted weights, but the gentle side while holding his newborn is quite touching.  
He was helpful to his parents and called his mom almost every day.  I am grateful for strong gentle men like Aaron.

2.  There can be tender mercies of joy between great waves of heartache
I learned even though something is tragic and heartbreaking, their can be joy and uplifting moments too.  We are not to feel guilty if our heart catches a wave of God’s love while we are mourning.  I watched as Aaron’s family hugged and gathered in family togetherness.  The little cousin’s joyfully played.  Women of my church gathered in the kitchen to work and make the funeral luncheon.  The spirit of friendship was abundant.  Sherry (Aaron’s aunt), my sweet childhood friend from Layton, Utah came down to Aaron’s funeral.  I spotted her across the room and the joy of seeing her practically knocked me over.  We hugged and cried, partly because of sorrow, partly because of joy.  The emotions were rich and sincere.
I hadn't seen her for 30 years. 

3.  We keep our children’s mementos for more then just scrapbooks
A few days after Aaron’s passing, the counselor and I visited Aaron’s parents.  Their living room was full of boxes.  Jill and Todd were looking through Aaron’s keepsakes; old report cards, Mother’s day poems from years ago, his childhood hand print made into a Thanksgiving turkey, etc.  Jill was commenting on his artistic talent and his abilities as a little student.  What a sweet child he was.  With Aaron’s passing, I was so grateful his parent’s had possessions created by him they could hold on to.  Tangible memories that could be touched; even caressed and held close to the heart.  Photos were spread across a long table like treasures.  Each photo was lifted with reverence and memories were shared.  Never had I considered what those saved art projects, photographs and report cards could be some day.

4.  Our children our perfect, always.
Raising children is not easy.  Each and every day is filled with work, highs and lows and unexpected detours.  Raising children is expensive and the bills never seem to slow down.  Raising children is frustrating because sometimes they make choices that drive us crazy, but it is the greatest joy I have ever been involved in.   As a teenager, I remember taking a trip with my family to California.  The van broke down in the middle of the desert on our drive there.  It rained the day we were at Disneyland.  The picnic lunch we took to the beach had sand it in, but I remember that trip with such fondness.  I remember the majestic sunset that day at the beach and how it shone like gold over the waves.  I remember there were no lines at Disneyland because we were one of the few families that chose to stay and brave out the downpour.  I remember the little town the mechanic towed our van into and the stray cat my little brothers and sisters played with while waiting to get back out on the road.   This is what it’s like raising kids.  Despite the trails and unknown, the experience is covered with joyful, simple moments.  Life is no longer about self, but about someone else.  I believe loving a child is honoring God. 

Sponsoring this benefit yard sale for Aaron put his life and example at the forefront of my mind. We raised over $800 to help pay for Aaron's funeral expenses.  Here I am with Aaron's dad, Todd.  There were so many who donated.  It seemed like every time we sold something, someone else showed up with more donations.  We were the constantly replenished garage sale!  Thank you, thank you so much.
Later, with Aaron's sweet parents.

To feel the love Aaron's parents have for him is inspiring.  He is their perfect son because that's how parent's feel about their children.  Even with our children's mistakes and downfalls, they are our perfect children.  I have reflected on my own children and the treasured time I have with them here on earth.  I am grateful families can be together forever because that is one tangible thing I can hold onto eternally.


  1. This is such a sweet post. I really didn't know Aaron all that well. I know he is a good kid and his parents raised him well. I remember my car stalling on the way home from picking up my sister at Mountain View. We managed to make it to the side street by the church. I don't remember being there all that long. Aaron was there out of no where offering his assistance. That made an impression on me all these years later. I don't even think he knew who I was or who my sister was. My sister did tell me who the kind stranger was then and reminded me again years later.

    1. Wow, that is so sweet. There is so much goodness that goes on. Thanks for sharing.