MEET AARON

At age 25, Aaron’s dad died right in front of him and it rocked his world because Dad was his best friend and the best man in his wedding. In his final breaths, his dad mustered up all his strength to whisper his final 3 words into Aaron’s ear, which impacted Aaron so much he fell to the floor in a flood of tears and it all changed his life forever.

Aaron with his Dad

Only one other person was in the room – the person Aaron’s Dad had introduced him to… the person Aaron wound up giving his very first kiss to, which was a big fail, way back in grade school.

Dad’s final three words put Aaron on a 10-year journey to understand God, the world, and how bad things could happen to good people, but it all began in grade school with the failed first kiss that eventually put the three of them in the same room that changed everything.

The First Kiss That Changed Everything

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My dad and I pulled up to an old rebuilt white barn where my Jr. High Self would attend a summer day camp. As we walked through the front door I saw over 150 kids sitting at long tables doing arts and crafts. I scanned the room for a place to sit and saw one of the most striking beautiful 7th grade girls I’d ever laid eyes on.

All the way across the room, there she sat in all her beauty.

She had that blond curly hair from the 80’s, big pink glasses resting on her nose, and bright white angels flying around her singing the hallelujah chorus. Most importantly, there was an empty chair across the table from her!

So I turned high-tail and sat next to my guy-friends clear across the room from her. But the whole time I couldn’t stop thinking about this girl. And in that moment dad asked…

"What would the grandpa-sitten-in-rocking-chair-sippen-lemonade version of yourself tell you to do in this moment?" 

The answer came immediately: Go get the girl.

So I looked over at her. I must have fallen into some kind of puppy love trance because when my guy-friends noticed I was gawking at her, they teased me: "No way, Bird, she’s out of your league. She’s not from our town, anyway, so it won’t work. She’s older than you, you have no chance. It’ll never happen for you, bro."

No doubt they were speaking some wisdom, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I really really really REALLY had to try.

Seeing my fear, Dad spoke up again, this time asking with a combination of pride in his son and a  joy in wanting to see his son make a fool out of himself. 

"Which is going to win out, son, your fear or your faith?"

I felt both.  So I stood up out of my chair, with my friends’ eyebrows raising in curiosity, disbelief even. My knees immediately locked up, my feet felt like cement blocks, and my hands now clammy. Is this what love feels like? I wondered.

Thinking I might pass out, I stood there with two beads of sweat dripping down my forehead…paralyzed with fear and what ifs. The guys were right, she was out of my league. And there’s no way this could work with each of us living in different towns. We're in 7th grade. How's that supposed to work? With fear screaming at me, I heard a quite whisper behind me…

"Are you all-in or not, son?"

She seemed to be working on a craft, so focused, and when she tilted her head to one side… I melted. I was all-in. ALL-IN.

I took one small step towards her. And then another. Slowly. Awkwardly. I thought I could heard one of my friends start humming Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. Maybe it was all in my head. I don't know. 

Thinking I saw her look up, I halted - pretending to be invisible before the times of Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. My mind tried to keep up with my racing heart: What if I embarrass myself? What if she doesn’t want me to sit near her? What if I smell? (All Jr. High Boys smell, right?). And what if she slapped me right there in front of everybody? My whole life would be ruined!

I need a plan. Something that will make her feel like a million-bucks. To make her feel like she's the only girl in the world. The answer hit me like a flash of lightning.

Go give her a kiss.

Yes! That’s what I’ll do. I’ll go give her a kiss!

I took a brave step in her direction and in so doing changed the direction of my entire life and led us to the hospital room in which my dad passed.

She was all the way across the room and the other 149 kids doing crafts between her and me blurred to the periphery. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. My heart beat thrashed in my ears and I felt my breath bottle up in my chest.

She didn’t know I was there. Didn’t even know I was alive. But I knew she was there, and when I saw that smile on her face I stepped into a moment that my future self would later high-five me for.

All because of a kiss.

Was I scared out of my mind? In every step. I felt light headed and my hands went half-numb. I even forgot to breathe until someone accidentally bumped into me.

In regaining focus, I pumped myself up to give this mysterious girl a kiss. My first kiss. I put one foot in front of the other.

The closer I got to her, the more fear screamed:

You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not in her league. You’ll bumble, stumble, and mumble. You’re going to fail. Turn back. Turn away. She’s not for you, loser. Everyone will laugh at you.

And before I knew it, I was sitting down across from her.

She looked up through her big-rimmed pink glasses, our eyes meeting momentarily. When she ignored me and went back to working on her craft, I felt I dodged a bullet. A chance to breathe. I sat there furtively glancing. No words were exchanged.

How should I give her this kiss? Should I lean across the table? Ask her politely? Crawl under the table and come up the other side? Just tell her?

I couldn’t take the pressure! So I just asked.

I said, "Um, excuse, um, excuse me, um, um, um, excuse me?" She looked up without a word.

Pause. 

The blood rushed to my head like I was on a roller-coaster. It just rolled off my tongue.

"May I give you a kiss?"

 

Aaron married that mystery girl

 

 

 

 

If you look up the definition of Eternity in the dictionary, you’ll find this part of the story.

"Excuse me?" She replied.

Oh boy. Did she not hear me? Do I need to say it louder? Now more people are listening.

I went for it again. "May I give you a kiss?"

HER JAW LANDED ON THE FLOOR!

And that’s when I did it. I put my 7th grade hand across the table and… dropped a Hershey’s Kiss in front of her craft.

Like a Boss.

Her Jr. High face blushed for over 30 seconds, saying nothing. The other kids laughed. I was so embarrassed I got up and walked away.

Minutes passed. Hours. Days. Weeks went by. And nothing. The same friends who laughed at me, saw my total devastation. Dad encouraged me to call her. I did, but no reply. I thought I had been cool, but now I felt nothing but Jr. High heartbreak. 

It was in those hours, days, and weeks that I learned heart-ache and humility. I felt failure in a personal way for the first time. Maybe I wasn’t good enough. Maybe I didn't deserve her.

For the next several weeks I moped around about everything, like I was dealt an unalterable hand of cards from God:

  • That I would never play in the NBA.
  • That my family was destined to continue living below the poverty line.
  • That I couldn’t be with my dream girl.

But I’ll never trade in those weeks because that’s also when I learned the value of keeping the faith despite felt failure. Why?

  • Because she called me. FINALLY!
  • Because we went to the Jr. High dance. Where jealous guys put gum in my chair. (Yes, I sat on it)
  • Because I escorted her to the High School Homecoming Dance where she was crowned the Queen.
  • Because I knelt down on one knee to place a ring on her finger to make her my princess.
  • Because we got married. And bought a house together. And had children. And travelled the world.

All because my dad, a preacher, took me to that VBS after school program where I met that mysterious girl. All because of a kiss. 

And everything that kiss represents -- keep the faith in the face of fear, believe we are enough, generate certainty despite doubts, go all-in, love is really what it’s about -- was solidified for me on June 19, 2001.

My dad’s last day on Earth. The guy who encouraged me to go after the girl. While standing in the hospital hall, we heard a strange yell from his room. Only 2 minutes earlier he said to us, "It’s getting late so I’m going to rest my eyes now." The strange yell sent us running back into his room.

If you look up prostate cancer final hours on the web, this is what you’ll find: “At the end of life, the chemical balance of the body becomes completely upset. The dying person then slips into unconsciousness. This is usually right towards the end, maybe only a few hours or days before death. Breathing becomes irregular and may become noisy until it just stops completely. You won’t be able to wake them at all.”

But he did wake up.

 

Dad 

 

 

 

 

After rushing into the room, we found him in this unusual unconscious state. In my desire to see him wake up, my pounding heart led to telling him through my tears how much I loved him, how grateful I was he was all-in with his kids, the times he took me fishing, how he was present at all my games, and for encouraging me to ask that 7th grade girl out who was now standing next to me as my wife, his daughter-in-law. I then leaned over, reminded him of the day he led me to that VBS and the first kiss and everything it represents, then gave him a gentle kiss on the forehead as tears streamed down my cheeks. "I love you, dad."

And that's when he woke up. For a final five seconds, he sat up, trying to open his eyes, his breaths irregular. With both arms he reached out so I could hear hear him one last time, and before falling back into heaven he said his three final words: “I Love You.”

The man who helped put my wife and I together in Jr. High. Who then stood as the Best Man in my wedding. Fitting, that his last day was the same day as my wife and I’s anniversary. The three of us in this room together.

It was in that moment - 10:41pm, June 2001 – that I for the very first time lost faith in God.

As my dad exhaled his last breath, everything went cold, and a mixture of nihilism and naturalism swept over me like a wet blanket.

I cried. And cried.

My best friend and best man in my wedding, gone.

I had so many questions. How could he, the guy with the biggest heart I knew, go so early in life? He was a man full of so much love, claimed that God was a loving God, and his last words were about love, yet…  


Where was God? If he’s all-loving, wouldn’t he want to help? If he’s all powerful, couldn’t he help? If he’s all-knowing, doesn’t he know how to help? And, yet, there my mom now sat without her husband, alone. Had I been duped my whole life? Was faith simply a crutch? Was I naive or, worse, too insecure to man up a la Nitche’s Superman and face the empirical facts?

Given what I knew in that moment, God didn’t exist. Logically he had to exist, the scientific and metaphysical probability of him not existing stretched my imagination, but still... I’d never felt so alone.

My solution? I immediately enrolled into a Ph.D program in Theology. People kept asking me if I did so to become a college professor but I had zero interest in that. I was laser focused and committed to a several year investigation on whether this God exists and, if so, what is he like, and, if not, the implications for my life.

The majority of all my research papers, and even my dissertation, were centered on theodicy - the very topic of 10:41pm, 2001.

Loooooong story short, I realized I’d believed in versions of God that did not exist, and that I’d held God accountable to promises He’d never made. Yes I discovered great answers and, no, I don’t have all the answers. With the risk of skating over issues and feelings, I understand it’s personal. I understand no one wants preached at. I understand in times of pain what’s needed isn’t someone saying, “I’ll pray for you,” but rather, “Can I bring you your favorite cookies and ice-cream?”

I’m a person of faith (which includes logic and reason) because He makes my life better, shows me how to get better at life, and promises eternal life.

I hold the belief that one day when we die, not only will we meet our Lord and loved ones, but we'll also meet the person we're capable of becoming, the person we were born to be. When you meet that best version of yourself, will you be complete strangers, close twins, or some measure of gap between your reality and that person?  

All my work and programs are designed with that in mind…  to get you closer to the person you were born to become - make a full-time living doing your Life's work on the internet and elsewhere (CoachPro Academy), experience the ultimate marriage (World-Class Couples Academy for Singles ... and this one for Married Couples To Make Your Marriage A Masterpiece), get from where you are to where you want to be and become who you want to be (Mindset & Life Mastery Academy), and the Coaching Program to ensure you experience your Best Year Ever (Designing Champions Coaching) to live all 1,440 minutes of every 24 hours a day to the fullest and make your difference in the world.

Much love, aaron

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"Aaron Bird is the real deal!"

Jonie Brown
Vice President Busey Bank

 

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