My Best Friend’s Wedding

Note: The following is a speech I gave at my best friend’s wedding. I am posting it here with the hope that it will be shared among his friends and family members.

Aaron and I first met as infants about 30 years ago, and our lives have been writing this speech ever since. We’ve lived together, gone to school together, and have spent countless, idyllic summer days together, moments that now feel like fading dreams. Because we grew up relatively isolated from other kids, on the banks of the same small lake in north-central Wisconsin, I once joked with Aaron that our friendship was based entirely on geographic convenience. That’s a grand lie, of course; I believe too much in benevolent kismet for that to be true. I have faith that we would have been united if Aaron had spent his formative years in say, of all places, North Jersey. Our passions are too aligned and our interests too similar for us to have missed each other across the vast cosmic expanse.

I’ve had a best friend for quite literally my entire life, which makes this moment particularly challenging. There’s simply no way I can encapsulate our relationship or, more importantly, who Aaron is, in the time I have here today, except to say this: every meaningful event in my life has been, in some way, shared with Aaron. In 6th grade, from his house, I made my first nerve-wracked phone call to a girl. And long before that, it was my dad who taught me how to play basketball, but it was Aaron (and to a much lesser extent, Jeff) who perfected my jump shot after hours of games in our respective driveways.

So how do I succinctly illustrate a lifetime of Aaron’s character? How can I tell you his story? How can I describe what goes on behind his perpetual smile?

I could tell you about the time when Aaron and I, as little kids, were adventuring in the woods near our homes. Aaron had to go to the bathroom, and I gave him what I thought was the leaf of an innocuous plant. It was, in fact, poison oak . . . and we learned, in the subsequent days, that Aaron is very allergic to poison oak, and that I have absolutely no survival skills.

I could tell you about the time Aaron secretly put together a scrapbook of all the articles I had written for our college newspaper, a gift that remains the most thoughtful I have ever received.

I could tell you about the time we drove 18 hours straight, from Wisconsin to New Jersey, laughing all the way, to ensure that Aaron could be in surgery on Monday morning.

I could tell you about the time Aaron came to New York as a ringer in a recreational football game and played so well that my team offered to pay for a car service to bring him up from Mullica Hill every weekend for the rest of the season.

Or I could tell you about the time when we were little boys and Aaron pulled me off of a frozen Second Lake in January, after my sled had skated dangerously out beyond my parent’s backyard and onto the cracking ice. Aaron has saved me from drowning–in anxieties, in insecurities, in self-doubt–more than he’ll ever know.

I have thousands upon thousands of these stories, and many more I’ve forgotten. None capture who Aaron is. The best I can offer you is this: my mom was Aaron’s English teacher his senior year of high school, and I remember she mentioned that in one class they were having an existential discussion about the myth of Sisyphus and about duty and conviction. In the myth, Sisyphus is forced to push a boulder up a hill, only lose the rock at the summit and see it roll back down. Sisyphus is conscripted to this fate for eternity, and when my mom asked Aaron for his interpretation, he said he didn’t understand it. I’m paraphrasing his response, but Aaron essentially said he couldn’t comprehend how anyone could take on a task that was destined for failure.

Of course, in some ways, Sisyphus is all of us; we each have our own weight to escort up a mountain. But what makes Aaron extraordinary is that he genuinely does not believe in hopelessness. Aaron could not relate to that allegory because he commits himself fully to everything he does, and he will not be outworked nor outhustled, not by Zeus or by anyone else. His earnestness seems almost anachronistic. I can’t count the number of times I’ve hung up the phone after a call with Aaron, reflected upon something he said and thought, “People don’t talk like that anymore.”

Aaron greets each day with the certainty that all obstacles awaiting him will be overcome and subdued by his radiating joy and enthusiasm. He is forever patient and caring; that’s why he’s a devoted son and brother, a wonderful doctor, and why he will be an incredible husband.

In the end, this is the space that Aaron occupies in my life: he is my inner monologue, my conscience, and my moral compass. When I feel myself growing complacent, I hear his voice pushing me onward, urging me not to compromise myself or my integrity. I think of him when I feel weak, because he’s the strongest person I know. Every word I use, and every action I take feels, in some way, his everlasting influence. And on those rare occasions when I am even the least bit sad, my mind travels back to our summers on Second Lake, where I get to see my best friend again.

Sara, I know Aaron will be all those things for you. You are marrying the best man I have ever known; please take care of him, as he has cared of me. I can’t possibly replicate his friendship with you or with anyone else, but I look forward to trying.

So, please, everyone, raise your glasses in celebration of Aaron and Sara. And as the Irish say, may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward, and may the joys of today be those of tomorrow.