The country was shocked when it was discovered that Aaron Hernandez committed suicide. It was first thing in the morning here in Seattle when my husband sent me the text. I glanced over the headline and had to slow down and read it again. I guess the first time I read it, I didn’t want to believe it.
“I was going to send him a card,” I told my husband. And then the tears came. The next day they came again. And the next. And I know they’re not done.
I never met Aaron and my grief is totally unexplained. Perhaps it has something to do with being from New England. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in the Patriot’s culture. Perhaps the fact that I grew up just fifteen minutes from where Shayanna now lives with her daughter and most of my family still live there now also has something to do with my grief. For whatever reason I feel a connection, the fact is that there is a connection.
I’m not the only one with these feelings. My mother, a New Englander her whole life, asked me why she was feeling grief over Aaron. “He was a convicted murderer. Why do I feel this way?”
“Because you’re a mom. Because you have empathy. Because Aaron’s story is tragic. Because Aaron deserves our grief.”
Snoop Dog is another. He took to social media to express his sadness for Aaron’s death, but some of his fans didn’t like this.
When Aaron received life without parole for the murder of Odin Lloyd, I thought it was a death sentence. To not offer parole – ever – is to take away someone’s hope. By not offering parole, the justice system gave up on Aaron – permanently.
When people judge me for my compassion for Aaron and his family, I remind them of the Apostle Paul, the man credited with the spread of Christianity. Paul was a murderer before he became a Christian and he loved to murder Christians in particular. If a murderer like Paul could completely change his life around and follow Jesus then anyone has a shot at a second chance. In fact, every one deserves a second chance – and forgiveness. Aaron is why Jesus came here. Aaron is why Paul had an awakening on the road to Damascus. Jesus never gave up on Aaron and neither did God.
And now that brings me to the question of how fans can grieve for Aaron’s passing. Should you send flowers? A sympathy card? What is the funeral etiquette?
Aaron will be laid to rest on Monday at a private ceremony in Bristol, CT at the O’Brien Funeral Home. I imagine some of his former teammates, like Tom Brady, will send flowers. But what about the rest of us who actually didn’t know Aaron but are feeling grief over his death?
While the family has asked for privacy, I don’t think there is anything wrong with sending flowers to the funeral home in memory of Aaron. If this will help you with the grieving process, I say call the funeral home and ask them what to do. Another idea is to make a donation to your favorite charity in Aaron’s name. My church supports a mission in India so I sent an “In Loving Memory” offering and this really made me feel a lot better. Otherwise, you can see about visiting his grave or a memorial marker, if he is cremated, sometime in the future after the ceremony to say your goodbyes to Aaron and leave flowers in his memory. I know I will.