It was four years ago today when I got a call from one of our good friends from Michigan. I was at work, working 3rd shift at the time, so it was pretty late, just after midnight in fact. Obviously whenever your phone rings late at night, you prepare yourself for anything. As I answered the phone, I never could have prepared myself for what I heard. In a weak and feeble voice, my friend Casey muttered the words “He’s gone.” There was a long pause during which I thought of a million people that she could be referring to. After what seemed like an eternity, she said sobbing, “Steve, he’s gone . . . Aaron’s gone.” Aaron was one of my best friends in the world. We had a bond like not many other people I know. I could not believe the words I was hearing. How could Aaron be gone? He was my age? What happened? How could God do this? What will his wife and little girl do? All these questions and more flooded my mind. Casey and I just sat on the phone and cried before she told me that he was just sitting in his chair watching the Detroit Tigers baseball game and his wife came out to talk to him, and he was dead. We later found out that it was a heart attack that took him from us.
Let me tell you a little bit about my friend. His story is really quite amazing and needs to be told! His life started differently that most. He was found in a trash can just minutes after birth by an off duty paramedic. The paramedic “just happened” to be at the carwash, washing his car that morning when he heard what he though was a cat or small animal crying. He traced the sound to a trash can just outside the carwash. As he got closer and looked inside, he was shocked to find a baby inside. He was able to respond in time and save the babies life. That baby was nursed back to health, and soon was adopted by a loving family, Nolan and Karen Lawson.
The Lawsons raised “Aaron” in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They took him to church, they showed him the love of Christ though their home. Aaron was saved at a young age and surrendered to preach! He attended Bible college and married a Godly Christian girl. He went on to serve as a youth worker in several area churches and took every opportunity he could to preach about his beloved Savior. He always preached with such passion! He even “preached his own funeral. How you ask? He preached his final message in church on a Sunday night a couple of weeks before he passed away. He obviously had no idea that he only had a couple of weeks left, but it was Divinely ordered what he would preach on. He preached a message “Will you be ready when the Lord returns?” He mentioned several times in the message things like “If you were to die today,” “We are not guaranteed tomorrow,” and “What will be said at your funeral?” They played excerpts of that sermon at his funeral, it was like he was speaking from heaven, it was truly amazing the way the Lord used him even after he was gone.
The first time I met Aaron was my first day of work at Antioch Baptist Academy. I was the new Athletic director and soccer coach. Aaron showed up at practice that day and said that he was ready and willing to help coach! Little did I know that day what a great friend I had just met. As the next few days went by, we started talking and quickly became friends. One day, a few weeks later, as we walked toward the soccer practice field together, he said “I need to tell you something” I said “Okay” he said, “No, I need to tell you something, but you have to promise not to tell anyone else.” I said “Okay, no problem, what’s going on?” He proceeded to tell me that I was the first person he was telling, he had not even told his mom yet. I thought, “Good grief, what could he be getting ready to tell me?” He said “Emily and I just got back from the doctor, we are going to have a baby!” I will never forget that day, I knew at that point, that he had 100% confidence in me. I was humbled and honored to be the first person that he revealed such good news to. He continued to tell me that just a few months earlier that his wife had miscarried their first child. My heart broke for them but was overjoyed at the same time.
It wasn’t long before they delivered their first (and only) child. We showed up at the hospital not long after Bethanne Grace Lawson entered the word. As I held that little, sweet baby, little did I know that she would only have 7 short years to spend with her father.
What a blessing Bethanne was! She grew up calling me “Uncle Steve” and still does to this day. I love that child more than anyone other except my own children. Her daddy would be so proud of her today! She is becoming a lovely, Christian young lady!
One thing I will never forget about Aaron is his love for his Detroit Tigers! I find it quite fitting that a Tigers baseball game is the last thing that he saw on this earth. He LOVED baseball! I was privileged to have played many church league softball games with him, talk about baseball on a regular basis, and watch a few games at Comerica Park with him. He just loved the sport! Now as I am surrounded by baseball here in the Dominican, I am reminded daily of the sport that my friend loved so much. I am sure he would be proud of the fact that I am serving in a ministry that uses baseball as a way to reach people with the Gospel. I am so thankful for the memories I have with my friend, and I cannot wait to see him again someday!