My life partner had been battling an illness for over three decades. It came to a critical point about five and a half years ago. Since then the battle has been hard, he suffered daily and the last year even more challenging. On December 8th, he lost the battle.
I’m choosing to write about it so that I can heal. His health had been an integral part of our daily lives. My days were spent not only with concern for him but navigating his daily needs, medical appointments and assessing if today was the day we head for the hospital…every day for the last year.
I’m taking this one day at a time, he was the love of my life and “our” dreams just ended. Now it’s “my” dreams that I have. I don’t know what that looks like yet, nor do I expect to find out any time soon. For those of you who know me well, you know I will be fine, we will be fine. Our boys are good, we are all sad, but we are bathed in the warm glow of his love and the love of a community that he brought us into.
I want to share with you the Eulogy that I wrote and somehow had the strength to read without breaking down during his celebration of life. It really was that, as almost 300 of our closest friends gathered to honour a man who touched all of them in a profound way. I gave out over 300 hugs in the span of 3 hours, we cried and laughed together. It was a moving gathering of a collective of people oozing love. I will be forever grateful for the life I have lived with Aaron.
I first want to thank you all for being here. You make our lives beautiful.
I’m going to walk you through a bit of my life with Aaron. It has spanned 27.5 years and began when he was 20 and I was 21. We met through our siblings Coal and Rachel. It was love at first sight, but neither of us knew it until the second meeting. We met at The Crown in Perth, Power Snooze was playing. I was rude, not interested in meeting a guy at a bar, even if it was my sister’s boyfriend’s brother, we left.
The next weekend was another party on Otty Lake where Coal was playing with his band. I drove my siblings and ended up meeting Aaron there again. He approached me with intent – I found out later it was to pick a fight since I had been so rude the first time. This time he had sparkles all over his face and an enormous smile – in spite of the fact that he thought he was mad. I saw the sparkles and something shifted… there had to be more to this guy than I had assumed. He had been at a kid’s birthday party before coming, and let them put sparkles all over him, and had the confidence to just roll with it.
We ended up talking all night on the dock, it was magical. I still remember him showing me the constellations and talking about the universe with reverence. We left for a 7-week west coast trip shortly after and have been together since.
Our younger years were full of adventure and travels. He encouraged me into an art career, something I had never known was even possible for me. He held a few jobs like Kiwi Gardens and Canadian tire. But really, he was a free spirit that needed space to create. He pursued his own art with iron work. Next time you are in Code’s Mill have a look up at the Juliette balconies – he made those, and the sign at the Perth Brewery. Everything he did was creative. He didn’t know how to do things simply. Everything was approached from the idea of the dream, with intent and purpose. Spectacular. Frustrating for me at times since it took so long, but it also taught me patience, he grounded me.
Aaron’s health threaded its way through our lives. While there were definitely reasons to be sad or upset by it, he never regarded it that way for long. It just was part of who he was. We adjusted our lives to meet his needs to still get the most joy out of every day.
He wasn’t sick when we met. After a year together, he faced his first downturn since the original illness at age of 12. This one was brief, more tests, investigation and recovery happened again. It
He managed to avoid the hospital for much of his 30s, but his health and energy were always a factor. His reserves were always low, and he had to gauge what he could manage every day. It would often take him weeks to recover to his peak energy – which was much lower than most – after going to a party or having visitors. Work was an even bigger challenge. He just took this in stride and did what he could. Aaron worked on our house, the cars, helped neighbours with their cars, helped people buy cars. He had such an amazing ability to understand mechanics and physics. He was fascinated by anything with moving parts.
He wasn’t really ready for kids but knew I was, and we jumped into that adventure in our mid-20s. He agreed to start trying, thinking after I came off birth control, it would take a year or two. I was pregnant the next month…and he was in love with Mickey the moment he knew he would be a dad. Jasper came along five years later.
These years with our kids were amazing. I loved to work, and it was hard for Aaron to, so it was a great fit. He stayed home with the kids, they had adventures constantly. He would load Mickey on the front, Jasper in the backpack and tour off into the woods for an afternoon excursion on the red motorcycle that he and Coal had bought when they were kids. Aaron would build things with them, his patience endless as they tried to use the drill that was clearly too heavy. Or they would sift through a box of old bolts, nuts and screws to see what sculptures they could build. Our kids grew up with a father dedicated to exploring life with them,
Aaron’s limitations were a factor, but just a normal part of our every day and really didn’t matter to them, the essence of who Aaron was, made up for it.
Things were a bit magical then. We lived in a tiny home, the four of us and our cat. We walked in the woods, we created beautiful things, we explored life and started building our own home. These were special years when Aaron spent many hours with the boys on the porch with Michael and friends like Cam and Franc that passed by, waxing poetic and solving the problems of the universe in one afternoon, ready to ponder it all again the next time.
He had this wonderful ability to pause and observe the natural phenomena that he encountered. If a bug wandered by, or a dragonfly landed on his knee, he would watch it, and marvel at the colours, mechanics and was awed by the simple fact that it existed. His sheer joy and wonderment of his natural surroundings became one of the most amazing gifts he shared with everyone he met.
The kids went to Brooke Valley school then and Aaron drove them on the golf cart every morning, picking them up after school and going through the woods for yet another adventure. In the summers, we would spend hours at the pond swimming, talking and soaking in the beauty of the scene. We shared all of this with
We then dove into the design and building of our new home. It was a really exciting and fulfilling project for Aaron. He was able to explore the details of every connection, system and integration in our home. It’s a culmination of his life’s work really. From the design of the building to the inventions of the systems, he revelled in every detail. His goal was to be as efficient as possible, with everything, materials, energy and his overall footprint on the world.
I would have to say though, that his best work was our boys. He raised them with quiet support, constantly there, just willing to always show up, his wry sense of humour always infusing joy into our lives. They share his love of life, his quiet strength, many talents and giant smiles. Each of them now expressing uniquely the best parts of themselves, because he was there for them.
Five years ago, our lives shifted once more, and Aaron danced with death, coming out the other side again. He had a few less organs – and a new reality of kidney failure. He was investigated by some of the world’s top doctors and was a fascinating mystery medically speaking. It changed our daily lives, he was now dependant on a machine to keep him going, and pain became a constant battle. Again, he took it in stride. He learned how to do what was necessary to be at home with the dialysis, so he could look out the window and watch the birds and trees that surround our home and work on our scene when he had the energy. He never complained, he never lamented his fate. He just looked for the beauty he knew still existed and spent time with that wonderment.
The last year was very difficult. The meds and treatments that were keeping him alive, were also killing him. His last few months were even harder, with pain increasing, mobility reduced, but through the suffering, he still had the ability to smile and have gratitude every day.
I want to talk about his final moments, it was one of the most profound events I have ever had the privilege to witness. I received an early morning call telling me that Aaron’s condition had turned, and they were taking him to
Michael, Coral and I were at his side, the boys had not yet arrived at the hospital and we had been told he would not likely regain any consciousness or have any pain. Once hearing Coral and Michael’s voice, somehow clawed his way to the surface and spoke. He reached for the mask that was providing oxygen and essentially breathing for him and removed it. I looked at him, told him what had happened and that if he kept the mask off, he would not survive. With clarity and determination, he said, “ I’m ready”.
We left the mask off, Coral at his head talking to him with loving and supportive words. Michael and I on either side, holding his hands tracking his pulse, watching as he slowed his heart rate and took his last breath in less than a minute. It was as close to a spiritual moment as I have ever had as we sobbed and ushered him to the multiverse and the next experience for his essence to journey with. It was the most unexpected, expected death.
Written as a Eulogy for Aaron Nault December 1, 1970 – December 8, 2018 by his loving partner, Bridget O’Flaherty.
If you’ve made it this far into this post, thank you. If you are wondering how you can help us out, we started a GoFundMe page as an education fund for the boys. Donations are greatly appreciated.
If you would like to read more about how I have coped with being a caregiver, you can read A Year in the Life of a Fibre Artist