Aaron Shoulders - MEMORIES
By Tony Allen, who was Aaron's gym teacher, mentor and idol... this he shared at his Funeral...
I have spent three special years working with Aaron Shoulders. This is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. But I am also very honored to have been asked to speak about someone that we all cared for so much.
The first thing that came to my mind when I started to try to capture the essence that was Aaron, is " That it is not as important how long a light is on, but how BRIGHT the light is for people to see".
I think that this sentiment was most apparent when we, the Jack James Community, watched the video celebration of last years' events. This video showed Aaron at his best: involved in everything and living life to the fullest. I think many students felt the same way as I did. When his pictures appeared, in addition to crying quietly, many cheered loudly celebrating the BRIGHT LIGHT that was Aaron Shoulders.
Our community of Jack James has been deeply affected, and changed for a very long time to come by the loss of one of our favorite sons. Everyone who knew Aaron at the school seems unable to concentrate on any of the tasks that usually come with the start of a new year. I think we are all just starting to realize how Aaron has affected so many people in so many different ways.
On Tuesday, at the end of the day, a group of teachers were leaning on each other for support in the staff room. They were sharing their warmest memories of Aaron, laughing through the tears. I want to share with you just a few of the staff's fondest memories that highlight the best qualities of Aaron.
Aaron was working in the library on a poetry assignment. He came and asked the teacher if he could use a swear word in a poem he was working on. The teacher's answer was, "You can write anything that you would be proud to show your mother". His response was, " My mom would be okay with it, she's a real cool lady".
Aaron built a table for his mom in welding. He designed it to match the rest of her set. He spent months on this table so that it would perfect for her, just as he thought she was a perfect mom for him. Aaron was a joy to teach, he was enthusiastic, driven and respected his teachers and classmates.
Another staff member shared that what struck him about Aaron was the determination and commitment he had toward reaching his goals. Aaron was inspiring to be around and helped the teacher through his workouts every day. The staff member commented that he didn't know many adults with the same drive that Aaron had. The teacher said that this would always stay with him and that he would try to be as driven as Aaron had been.
One of Aaron's goals was to get a high school diploma and the final math class he needed did not fit into his schedule. This did not stop Aaron. He negotiated with a teacher to complete the course on his spare and he did it in half the time usually required.
That same teacher said that she "Will carry Aaron's courage with her, in her heart, and lean on it when she needs it". She said, "Thank you Aaron for touching my life and giving me the courage to follow in your footsteps".
These are some of my favorite memories of Aaron.
Aaron wasn't only a student in his final year at Jack James, but also a teacher. It was great when younger students in the school saw some of the great things accomplished by Aaron and the boys in the weight room. I could take the new guys to meet him. And, when they got over the initial shock of how BIG he was and the fear that "I'm not going up there "cuz that dude is HUGE"; they quickly found out he had a gentle and caring way about him and only wanted to help others succeed as he had.
The weight room will not be the same without the 7:05 arrival of Aaron, who would have a little fun at Culshaw's expense pushing on his belly while waiting for, who he affectionately named, "Spaghetti Arms" Mac to arrive.
More and more, over the years, I knew that Aaron was his own man. Like, when he shook hands with the school Constable in the middle of an awards ceremony, or when he grabbed the vice-principal and took her up to dance at the school fundraiser. This demonstrated he didn't worry about the way that others perceived him, and I knew that he put other people's feelings ahead of the scrutiny of his peers.
I think the memory for me that most demonstrates this, happened at one of the dances Aaron DJ'd. I noticed a young lady who obviously wanted to be on the floor, but no one had asked her to dance. Aaron saw the same thing, leaped of the stage and in his cool way, sauntered over and danced a number of songs with her. He made sure a few pictures were taken of them together. When I told him after, that it was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen in school, he shrugged his shoulders and said, Ain't nothing, everyone should have someone to dance with".
I could go on for hours about the great memories we have of Aaron. I know we'll share them later on. But what would Aaron want us to learn from this senseless tragedy? Not long before he passed away he stated that he wished
"PEOPLE WOULD JUST STOP THE VIOLENCE". After all the pain we've seen, does any more need to be said? I know that Aaron wouldn't want us to feel guilty, to beat ourselves up over the "I wish I hads" or "I should haves". He would want us to be courageous and support one another.
As I alluded to in the beginning, it is not as important how long a light is on; it's about how BRIGHT the LIGHT burns. Aaron shone brilliantly. I think we all need to make sure our lights burn brighter in his memory, and then we will be putting a little AARON SHOULDERS in everything we do.