In high school he stood taller than most in our class. With long blondish white hair dropping down in front of his face and all black clothing he seemed the guy to avoid when walking down the hallway. Yet, when I got to talking to him I found a kind person with strong opinions.
My southern baptist upbringing caused my adolescent brain to short circuit when he explained to me one day he was an atheist. I was troubled in two ways upon the revealing of this information.
1. How could anyone be so certain of nothing existing outside of the natural world.
2. I thought these atheists were bad people hell bent on bring distraction and dismay in their paths.
Aaron Gregory was none of this. Sure, he loved to listen to metal and even played in a band but all in all he was a decent, caring young man just going through high school like the rest of us bible belt students. I learned a lot from Aaron, though he probably never knew it.
A few weeks ago Aaron was awarded ACF Chapter Chef of the year and newly elected chapter president of the ACF. Aaron left high school with the rest of us and decided to take on culinary school and become a chef.
Keep in mind, Aaron did this long before it was the sexy, cool thing to do. He did it back when we all understood what working in a kitchen really is; back breaking long hours droning on with the same exact burger cooked the same exact way every time.
Aaron stuck with it and now is Head Chef at a local restaurant in my home town and takes great pride in his work.
I caught up with Aaron a few years back when I was home for our twentieth year high school reunion.
My wife and I ate lunch in his restaurant and then he gave us a tour of the restaurant and hotel kitchen he oversees.
It was so cool seeing all that he was in charge of but even cooler seeing an old friend snap-dag in the middle of what he loves.
I live vicariously through Aaron’s Facebook posts and though I’ve never met his wife Allison I am certain we would get along great.
This morning my news feed lit up with the flames of candles mourning the loss of one of Aaron’s friends. A fellow metal head who’d been friends with Aaron since Aaron was fifteen.
For those of you needing help with the math, that's a friend for almost two-thirds of his life.
I thought about sharing #thisiscrazylove2016 with Aaron the day he won the award a few weeks ago. Now I am glad I waited because I can’t imagine the pain and frustration he’s going through right now and I couldn’t think of a better day to celebrate Aaron than to do so as he celebrates the life and music of his dear friend.