Submitted by his mother, Theresa Morris
Aaron Cook

What Aaron was like

Aaron was an amazing man. He was loving and caring and loyal to a fault. He was quick-witted, silly and sarcastic. He loved animals and children and was rejuvenated by his new job and the prospect of helping children in need. Aaron always talked about having a family of his own, before heroin stole his life and everything he loved from him.

His way with words

He was a musician, a rapper, with an amazing vocabulary. When he was 4 years old, he had a full vocabulary. He was just an absolute language genius — the English language was truly a gift for him. He was just using words that weren’t 4-year-old words. So his rhymes were very poetic. He loved taking the stage and performing. You can hear one of Aaron’s songs here.

Aaron performing

Aaron was deeply empathetic

My older son Brandon came home from school one day. He was around 8 years old, which would have made Aaron 7. He walked in the door, and I asked how his day was. He said his day was fine. He went to his room to play video games.

Minutes later, Aaron walked in the door. I asked him how his day was, and he burst into tears and shouted, “They put him in a locker!” I asked, “Who?” He said, “Brandon!” I called Brandon back to see if this was true. It was. Aaron’s loyalty to his brother was insurmountable. But Aaron’s loyalty to his friends, or other people in general, was no different.

Aaron was an empathetic, compassionate soul who always fought for the underdog. When he was with you, he would say, “I feel you.” And that wasn’t just an expression for him. He could feel everything you said.

Aaron and his brother, Brandon, as kids

The world is not as good a place without him. That’s for sure.

How drugs became a part of Aaron’s life

Aaron started smoking weed very young. I began trying to deal with it with him when I found out. He was 12. He had a problem with alcohol all through high school, as well. It was my husband who realized Aaron was snorting Percocet in his bedroom. He was around 20.

I confronted him, and he downplayed it. I believed him. He moved in with his girlfriend and seemed to be doing better, but then he’d call and tell me he needed help. I always told him I’d help him, but he always lost his nerve. That happened on three different occasions.

From left: Aaron, Theresa and Brandon

I was horrified. I was terrified. I was helpless.

If there was one manual that said, “This is what you do with an addict,” then oh my God, what a world. But every personality is different. Every addict is different. All I would say is: Just love the person, not the disease. If only our love for him could have made him stop.

Aaron’s shame over his illness made treatment harder

He was very proud. He didn’t want to expose himself as being vulnerable. He thought that showed weakness. He stole medication from my father, and he was absolutely humiliated about that. I watched the apology, and it was just heartbreaking. He just really didn’t have any feelings of self-worth at that point. I think it’s a cycle that he went through: He would just self-medicate because those feelings of guilt and shame were just too intense.

Aaron, photographed by Asha Waterhouse

The last moment we shared

On August 2, the day before he died, I realized I hadn’t heard from him in a couple of weeks. It wasn’t uncommon for him to go silent on me, but I felt like something was wrong. I sent him a text message, telling him how proud of him I was and how I knew how much he was struggling, but that it was all going to work out. He never responded to me. He died early the next morning.

If you could say one thing to Aaron now, what would it be?

I know you did the best you could, and I know you wanted to get better.