I hesitated to post this, but I just need to let feelings out. It's all part of the grieving process.
About 5 years ago I meant a 7th grade student (The one pictured far left) who would change my life forever. I had just begun working with Allegheny Center Alliance Church's (ACAC) Student Ministries in the North Side of Pittsburgh. At the time I was a lost soul still recovering from a violent and tragic ending to my ministry in inner city Atlanta. I had no idea where God wanted me.
Working with the students at ACAC was itself proving to be rather difficult. I had no idea how to relate to them what-so-ever. Me, a skinny (I know hard to imagine isn't it) white kid who loves British rock trying to minister to inner city kids. I just couldn't find a connecting point. That was until I met Aaron Reed.
My friendship with Aaron began the night I took he and his brother home from a Wednesday night program. It all started with this question, "Hey Shawn, you want to hear me rap?" I nodded yes expecting to hear some recycled garbage that you often hear on the radio, but to my surprise the words and rhythm that came out of his mouth blew me away. At that point I told them that I could make a beat and record them. Needless to say I found a point of connection with a small group of students from the North Side. It was at that point, that my ministry with ACAC truly began. Most likely, if I hadn't meant Aaron I would not be in ministry today.
In the five years since that night, friendship had made it through many valleys and mountain tops. Together, with his brother and friends, we recorded 30 songs, shared great times in our makeshift home studio, ate hundreds of McDonald's Hamburgers, played hours of laser tag, nearly blew out the subwoofer in my car, and just hung out chatting. Together, we also struggled through the death of his cousin Tony (Tone-Bone), the imprisonment of his father, the challenges of trying to stay out of trouble, the devastation of him being put in Juvi after assaulting a teacher, and the joy of being reunited after that year.
What really stuck out about Aaron during the past five years was his love. The way he would just light up when seeing me. The way he always hugged my wife and treated her so respectfully. The way he would always just say, "Shawn I can't believe you've known me for five years. You're like my brother." The way he was so excited about being an "uncle" to my baby. The way he hugged me so tight before I left to move to Ohio. And the way he would always randomly call me just to see how my life was going and of course to give me an update on his.
In fact one of those random phone calls is my last memory of him. About a month ago at 8:30 in the morning Aaron called and said, "Hey Shawn, I'm graduating High School today. You proud of me? I can't believe we've known each other for this long."
So that's a snapshot of my friendship with Aaron Reed, but sadly that's as far as it will go for now. Yesterday at 9:46pm I received a phone call from his brother telling me that Aaron had been shot in the head while walking across the Wind Gap bridge in Pittsburgh. That quickly my friend Aaron has become another statistic in the wars that wage across the country in our urban areas.
The day since that phone call has been full of emotional ups and downs. Grieving is a strange monster. One minute I'm ok and then it will hit me and I'll be sad, angry, crying, and almost shaking all at the same time. Sad at the fact that my friends life was snuffed out too soon. Angry at the fact that no matter what nothing really changes. Crying at the fact that Aaron's grandma, who raised him, doesn't even have a grandchild that has made it to the age of 18. Shaking at the waves of emotion that come with loving someone so much and knowing that you won't hear his voice again.
I write just simply asking for your prayers. For me and my wife and especially for the Reed family as they have to deal with death of yet another young male.
If I could just say one thing to Aaron (and I know in some mysterious way he knows this now) it would be this:
Aaron, God used you to change my life. It would not be the same without you. Thank you so much for the joys, laughs, challenges, and experiences you've given me. Every student I minister to benefits from the fact that I knew you.
Aaron you're with Jesus now (tell him I said hi) and all your pain and sorrow is over. I can't wait to see you in the future and hear your rhymes once again. Again brother, I'm so happy to have known you and everything I do in ministry has in some way been influenced by you.