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From Grief, a Md. Twin Bakes Valentines to Brotherly Love

Identical twins Eric, far left, and Aaron Ware. After Eric died of cancer in 2006, Aaron turned to baking to help channel his grief. He donates money from sales of his cookies to groups that have helped his family.
Identical twins Eric, far left, and Aaron Ware. After Eric died of cancer in 2006, Aaron turned to baking to help channel his grief. He donates money from sales of his cookies to groups that have helped his family. (Family Photo)
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By Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 14, 2009

For nine years, Aaron and Eric Ware were virtually inseparable. Ever since the identical twins clasped hands in a hospital incubator, it was Aaron-and-Eric, Eric-and-Aaron. Eric dreamed up the mischievous plots -- switching identities at preschool, eating their birthday cake by the handful before dinner -- and Aaron helped pull them off.

But in 2004, when the Maryland twins were 6, doctors found a tumor in Eric's brain. Chemotherapy and radiation followed. The cancer came and went and then, in 2006, came back. Eric died in October of that year.

To cope with the loss, Aaron has found refuge in an unusual place: the kitchen. He started baking and selling cookies, with plans to give the proceeds to groups that helped his family when Eric was sick. The most recent batch featured heart-shaped treats, made especially for Valentine's Day.

"People always ask how we're doing," said his mother, Angela Ware. "I say we're adjusting. And Aaron is adjusting by pouring his heart into his baking."

Psychologists have written volumes about "twinless twins" and the special sense of aloneness they sometimes feel. For many, the loss of a twin comes with a heavy dose of survivor guilt. Even looking in the mirror can be a painful reminder.

Angela Ware said she and her husband have struggled, as has their older son. "But Aaron? I can't even imagine," she said. "Sometimes he will tell me that he feels like he has a hole inside of him, that something's missing."

In search of a fresh start, the family moved from Mitchellville to St. Mary's County. Aaron enrolled in grief counseling. Even so, it's been difficult for him, his parents say, without the twin who seemed to sense his every thought.

"He was awesome," Aaron said of Eric.

Late last year, the family's pediatrician, Marilyn Corder, asked Aaron what he loved to do.

"I love to bake," he told her.

Then start a baking company, she told him, listing the steps that would be involved: pick a name, find investors, purchase supplies, perfect recipes, set prices and find customers.

Corder handed Aaron a $20 bill, making her the first investor in what he decided to call the Doughjangles baking company, playing off the name of the fast-food restaurant. Soon Aaron had backing from his parents, his godmother and an aunt. They equipped him with a black chef's jacket, cookie cutters, measuring cups and cookbooks.


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