Easter 2019 was a vivid reminder that Good Friday still precedes Easter Sunday. The global news machine brought us horrific images of Christians massacred in their churches by Islamic terrorists in Sri Lanka. And an older, more personal means of communication spread the sad, shocking news that Chronicles’ Aaron Wolf, beloved by all who knew him, died on Easter Sunday, at the tragically young age of 45.

One does not need to know much about politics to realize how much Aaron stood out from that world. The politicians and pundits promoted by the mass media often engage in ugly public squabbles and are driven by petty egotism. Someone as unfailingly kind, considerate, and humble as Aaron stands out against such a background like the Star of Bethlehem. 

Indeed, someone as kind, generous, and humble as Aaron would have stood out in any setting, including Therese of Lisieux’s Carmel, Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying, and Bernadette Soubirous’ convent, each of which saw much that was at odds with the virtue exemplified by its most famous resident.

Aaron always sought to encourage those he met. When he sent back galleys for Chronicles writers to review, he always—until the press of business made it impossible—included a brief note letting them know how much he appreciated their work. He was generous and kind with writing and editing advice, which I relied on when I wrote my article extolling another exemplary Christian, Jim Skerl, a theology teacher at my Catholic high school, for Chronicles. In fact, the last communication I received from Aaron was a text message on Good Friday, just days before his death, about the reaction from readers to my piece for the Chronicles’ website on the fire at Notre Dame de Paris: “Beautiful, Tom! Your piece deserves the attention. The richest blessings of Christ to you and Val this Good Friday!”

One of Aaron’s sons has muscular dystrophy, and one of his daughters has juvenile diabetes. Even before those children came along, Aaron showed special solicitude for those who were sick and disabled, according to his wife, Lorrie. After Aaron’s passing, I spoke to another writer for Chronicles, Mark Brennan, who told me how important Aaron had been to him as he faced a potentially life-ending disease. My own experience was similar. When I received distressing personal news last summer, Aaron offered me both wise counsel and unfailing support. Aaron, a staunch Missouri Synod Lutheran, was the only one who suggested that I, a Catholic, go see a priest. It was excellent advice.

When I needed it, Aaron was quick to offer his prayers for me, and I have no doubt that the Lord heard the prayers of such an exemplary Christian as Aaron Wolf. As suggested by his advice that I see a priest, Aaron’s love for and belief in his own tradition was coupled with a generosity toward other Christian traditions. 

Even though Aaron’s love for the Lord was at the core of his being, and his love for his family motivated all he did, there was even more virtue in Aaron than good works and prayer. He also had a wonderful sense of humor, which he was able to lend to his writing—a skill I particularly admire since I know how difficult it is to do. 

He also was deeply loyal to the places that shaped him, a loyalty that was all the more admirable because those places—his ancestral Arkansas, his native Rockford, the industrial Midwest in general—are so unfashionable today.

And he loved Chicago sports. When Aaron got a text message, his phone would broadcast Mike Ditka saying “Go Bears!” Aaron’s sports allegiances were charming, rather than obnoxious: he let me know he was pulling for LeBron James and the Cavs as they won the only Cleveland sports championship I’ve been able to enjoy. And he was the only Cubs fan who did not annoy me during the unforgettable 2016 World Series.

There is a picture of Aaron on Facebook wearing a Walter Payton jersey outside Soldier Field. That picture came to mind because Payton, like Aaron, also died at 45. Payton’s nickname was “Sweetness,” which certainly applied to Payton’s skill as a running back, but may not have applied to all of his personal life. By contrast, sweetness was evident in all Aaron did, personally and professionally. That was Aaron Wolf: Sweetness. Pure sweetness.