Memories—I have those, too. But they are intangible. A stack of letters, smooth under my fingers, they are tangible. They hold your ruminations, a hundred quotations, illustrations, and aspirations. But letters cannot give me a bear hug. So I have your blue plaid flannel shirt wrapped around me. But where are your strong arms, my friend?
I can't wander back to the Lodge and find you there. Can't find you perched atop a woodpile at my parents' house...or at your parents' house, either. Believe me, I've looked. I've seen your bookshelf, the beautiful things you crafted, your writing desk, the footprints you left in the closet, your handwriting on the mirror. But you have gone on without me—beyond the veil to a place I've never known. A place I yearn for in the beautiful, aching moments. You've run ahead to a place I long for more earnestly now than I ever have.
Looking back over your letters has become something of a yearly tradition around our almost-shared birthdays. Ever since the day I first met you, I have known you were different than other people. Sometimes that difference was frustrating, as I just wanted an answer about your favourite food or your week's adventures. But more often, your different-ness was perceptive and inspiring. You once sent me a heart-full poem, asking for my advice, only to have me mutilate it—blind until years later to the depth of sorrow and beauty commingled therein.
I should have known that the soul of an artisan-poet, so well-versed in the language and habits of the King's world, wasn't long for this fragmented, still-fallen one. Perhaps part of your restless wanderlust stemmed from never quite feeling like you belonged here. There seemed no corner of the earth that could quite be your very own, my elven-friend. So you chose to step out of this world to find the place you had never known, but longed for all your life.
Like Jewel says in The Last Battle, 'I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.' But there you are; you've gone further up and further in, without me. I envy you. So. Much. And I look forward to the day when I will get into Narnia and you can teach me the ways and words of the Kingdom. Who knows how long that will be, life is too dear to leave it without Aslan deliberately calling me away. But when He does—O friend!—come meet me. Show me sylvan glades where the dryads play. Teach me all the colours I haven't seen before. Tutor me in the names of the trees and the contours of the Kingdom. And help my trembling, tied tongue to learn to lisp the language of Heaven, until it becomes familiar to taste the words.
You have always shown me the world through different eyes. You have shown me beauty and wonder—ever my guide into Faerie Land. You have asked the questions I didn't even think to question. You have valiantly lived, trying to reconcile confusion and the constant hurricane of thoughts and fears.
"And now after all my searching
After all my questions
I'm gonna call it home
I've got a brand new mindset
I can finally see the sunset
I'm gonna call it home"
Do you remember the time that you told me that your family went to the beach on or around Christmas, and that you saw a wall of water rising up and the sun behind it? Those lines from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader sounded so naturally like something that would actually happen to you. And now you're in Aslan's own Country, the Utter East. Perhaps you sailed so far West from the Grey Havens as to arrive in the East. But you left me here without you, friend. In many ways, you left me for another world years ago. I always hoped you would find your way back far enough to reach out your hand to me once again. But we can't go back to how it was. And maybe that is for the best. I don't know if I could have borne the changes in you since that last visit. They were already apparent then...and they hurt to see. But know that I never stopped loving you and being your friend, even from a distance.
Perhaps it is better that what I do remember is you running to ring the unringable church bell in Pagosa. You, sitting on the floor, reading The Silmarillion aloud to me. The vast amount of ham you could eat! 'Phoners' and enthusiastic letters. The artistry of your hands and the music you played. The enthusiasm you had for music and lyrics and poetry.
You were hard for me to understand, my friend. But not hard to love. You were hard for me to know how to help in fits of depression. But it seemed to be a joy for you to help me—even when I didn't always know it was your hand reaching out to me. You visited me when I was lonely. You gave me one of the greatest adventures I've ever taken, and were an integral part of my other grand adventure. You gave me the gift of your friendship, even though it cost you dearly to be open to loving another living thing. When you withdrew that gift, I felt abandoned, betrayed, unwanted. But now I know it was not because you didn't care, you cared more than you knew how. A part of me ceased all those years ago, and now part of me has died with you, friend. There are things that will never heal this side of Aslan's Country.
Missing you hurts like Hell, Aaron. Because it is Hell that stole you from me, from your dear family, and from a world that needs to see through your eyes.
'This is worse than Mordor!' said Sam. 'Much worse in a way. It comes home to you, as they say; because it is home and you remember it before it was all ruined.' I remember you before the enemy set about to ruin you, to try to take you. But though you have gone further up and in, while I am left in the Shadowlands, neither has the enemy succeeded. You are now safe forever from confusion and heartache. You get to know how fully loved you are.You belong. Your seed has fallen into the ground in order to bear much fruit. In so many ways, the Lord has already borne good fruit through you, my friend, but the harvest continues. I can't thank you enough for being you. I love you. So. Much.
"A truer, nobler, trustier heart
never beat within a human breast"
“But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”