Aaron dropped to his knees, sobbing. The dewy grass soaked through his jeans, causing a deep chill. He knelt there, for a long time in front of a weeping willow, trembling uncontrollably and looking like a sacrificial lamb.

Right there, in the backyard to the middle-of-nowhere, Aaron wept the agonizing tears of self-hatred and criticism. He was dead tired of trying to quit; his arms dangled as if they were broken – worn out from the effort of throwing away pack after pack of cigarettes for the last 20 years, only to buy another. He was filled with regret about a wasted life and was determined to turn it around.

That evening, as the sun was setting and the birds were calling to their mates, Aaron made a promise to the universe that he was quitting. For good this time. He knew it was killing him. Truthfully, anyone not diagnosed with profound deafness agreed. His wracking, choking cough brought tears to Allegra’s eyes every time she heard it, so she was relieved and honored to be a part of his breakthrough.

Aaron didn’t smoke that week. ┬áHe planted spinach instead. An acre of organic, hand-planted heirloom spinach in Fibonacci-like spiral mounds – more than their entire community could eat before next year. But, that was okay, he said, he planned on selling it. Aaron was turning his life around and it was one of the most inspiring things Allegra had ever seen. Aaron had experienced an epiphany about his life and decided he was done suffering and feeling sorry for himself. At 31, he was ready to fly. He would fly soon, but not in the way he had expected.

That night, Aaron took the short route home, over an extreme switchback road. The sheriff told us it looked like he had been trying to avoid the bunnies when he flipped the tiny car.

At Aaron’s service, they all stood around, eating spinach and telling stories about him; some funny, others sad. They had made a small birch bark boat containing his ashes and pushed it out onto the water after lighting it on fire. It ebbed out slowly and gradually caught fire, but then it returned to the shore.

Someone nudged it back out to its destination. A beautiful silence fell on everyone as Allegra thought: “This is it, the end. Goodbye, my beautiful friend.” And then, the boat returned. Allegra smirked. She felt this was Aaron’s doing. It happened again. People started giggling and whispering to each other.

It boomeranged again and again before a Great Blue Heron flew across the water, silencing all laughter and chatter. Allegra heard Aaron’s quiet voice: “Don’t hesitate like this silly boat; drifting back to the shore for safety, life is shorter than you think. Push out on your wave and BURN! Make it count. Burn until there’s nothing left. Burn until you’re done.