On August 24, 2013, we were able to dedicate the playground at Mechanicsville Elementary in honor of Nate.   We’ve struggled with the words to express what this day meant and the words just don’t meet paper.    We are so thankful for what a community can do when we all come together for a common goal.  We are so grateful and honored to part of a community that rallied to support us in our darkest moment and with so much more than just a playground.

This is the playground that Nate built.  This is a playground that you built.  A playground that a community came together and built.  A playground that we are honored to be a part of.  We watched as the kids went running by to play on the playground and we thought to ourselves – we ALL did it.  We did it.  We did it for Nate.  We did it for the community.  We did it for these children. We say WE but we know that this is more about all of YOU than it is us! WE didn’t build anything – YOU built this playground. This playground is the collective efforts, generosity, and love of so many people. So much so that we could never begin to thank each and every person for your contribution.

As you look through these pictures we think you will see the mix of emotions that the day brought.   Tears, sadness, grief, joy, peace, love, pride, smiles, and laughter – we felt them all. We felt the pride of being part of something so great. We felt the pride of being part of this great community. We felt the presence of Nathan and his approval of this amazing playground.

The playgrounds are beautiful. The blue playground is the upper grades playground that was dedicated to Nate.  The green playground is the Kindergarten playground that was finished this year by the Dannon Rally For Recess win that so many of you helped to work so hard on!

We have to say thanks to Erin Upton of Thirty-Three Loves Photography for taking some gorgeous pictures of the day for us!  We also have to thank our family and friends that have supported us, loved us, and been there for the past year with us through it all.  We have to thank MES, the PTA and this amazing community for everything you did to make this playground a success!

This foundation grew out of the love that many have for Nathan. We did not build it alone.

We are excited to be partnering with Sandymount Elementary to begin the fundraising for their new playground.  The first of our fundraisers is approaching quickly.  The 2nd Annual Chris Baker Fun Day is September 29th, 2013 and we hope to see you there.  It’s sure to be fun for the whole family!


Justin and Katie

Carried by Him

Some days we are able to run.  Some days we walk.  Some days we just barely put one foot in front of the other.  Some days I feel like I am crawling.   And some days we are carried.  We are carried by Him.

This past weekend… we were carried.

For weeks, we thought about how we would get through last weekend.  Everyday hurts so what made Labor Day weekend any different than any other day of the past year?   How do you ever prepare for that?   I tried to think of a way to honor Nate but nothing seemed fitting to even begin to express our love for him.   When I couldn’t decide what to do, I put the weekend to the back of my mind.  Before I knew it September was here.  I wasn’t ready but had no choice but to walk through it like we have done every day for the last year.

Sunday morning, September 1st, we woke up and got ready for church.   We attended one of the most beautiful services I have ever witnessed as we watched baptisms in the most intimate setting.    As we sat through a stunningly beautiful service my poor heart was aching.  It was heavy.  I felt this heavy weight of being lost in the day.   I was stricken with grief and sadness that I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing with the day.   Then it washed over me, it was a message from God and one that I couldn’t ignore.  This feeling I had was to strong to ignore or push aside.   As we walked out of church, I had an overwhelming sense of where we needed to be in that moment and I didn’t question it.   I looked at Justin and said that we need to go the lake.  He looked at me and asked, “Today, Tomorrow, when”, and I responded with “Yes, right now, we need to go”.   We didn’t give ourselves time to question anything.  We headed home, we packed, and an hour later we headed out the door.    A trip that I had feared, cried over, and procrastinated on, was happening.   I wasn’t sure how I would make the trip but all I knew was that in my heart I wanted to be there and to get there as fast as I could.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  1st Peter 5:7

I expected lots of anxiety and tears as we left, but to be honest, our drive was rather peaceful.    God had set peace into my heart and I trusted it.    We arrived at my parents house in the evening as it is about a 5 hour drive.   For the last year I have wondered how, and when, and if, I would ever be able to go to the lake again.   But Sunday, we did.  We needed to be there.  God knew that and He got us there.

We put food on the grill for an easy dinner and spent the evening at one of Nate’s favorite places.   Drew and Justin practiced baseball out front while Kaylee played in the dirt in her “pretty dress” as she says as she was still dressed from church.  She pulled out one of Nate’s dump trucks and filled it with gravel and rocks.   As I watched the kids playing, I couldn’t help but wonder where would Nate fit into that picture.  My guess – he’d be in the dirt with Kaylee filling “her” dump truck while waiting for his next turn with the baseball.

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” – Angel Schwindt

That evening Drew asked to have breakfast on the dock the next morning.  I actually found this request a little odd because he had never asked to do this before so I wondered why?   So the next morning, we got up and after making breakfast took our plates down to the dock to eat.   I can’t pretend it was easy.  Being on the dock was hard for me.  Being near the water was hard.  Drew and Kaylee are innocent children of God who don’t think the same way we do.  They were ready to go and start their day on the water.   As we sat there eating with Drew and Kaylee smiling, and asking to put bathing suits on, I knew it was right.  It forced us to soak in the morning sun, watch the momma duck and growing babies swim by, and soak in some of the natural beauty that we love.

Before heading back to the house to start our day, Drew and Kaylee, threw a few dried roses into the water in honor of Nate.   In typical Kaylee fashion, she had to make sure she threw hers first instead of waiting for Drew (which, by the way, totally reminds me of Nate).  As we watched the flowers in the water we all shouted our love for Nate.

After cleaning up and getting ourselves ready we headed outside for a boat ride.  I knew as we headed to the lake, the day before, that a boat ride needed to happen.   We, along with my parents, took the boat out and made a stop for lunch. As we crossed the lake Drew sat at the front of the boat and let the wind hit him in the face as he gazed over the water ahead.  Kaylee sat beside him and soaked it in as well.  I hugged them from behind, kissed their cheeks, and we talked about how Nate loved to do the same thing.  He’d sit and just let the wind pass by.  We took a moment to take in every breath.

I can’t say that I will ever be healed.  But the weekend was peaceful and was a step in the right direction for our journey.    At moments, I wondered if I’d make it through or if we’d be okay but I just kept telling myself not to worry and to hand it over to God.  I surrendered all of it and He carried us through.

Everything rides on hope now
Everything rides on faith somehow
When the world has broken me down
Your love sets me free
~ Hope Now, Addison Road

All My Love,



September 2, 2012 – 1 year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,766 hours, 525,949 minutes, 31,556,926 seconds. Some days it seems like yesterday, other days it seems like forever. It doesn’t matter how I calculate the year – not one moment has gone by that I have not thought about Nathan. Some of those moments are tougher than others……all of them have been hard.

As we drove home from Smith Mountain Lake after Nate died I began typing my thoughts on my phone. I was trying to get my thoughts and memories about Nathan on paper. It was almost as if I was trying to remember everything about him so that I wouldn’t forget. Those writings would largely compile the words that I would speak about Nathan at his service on September 6, 2012.

I want others to know Nate. My greatest fear as a father is that he will be forgotten – that his life will somehow become a sad story that happened in the past and is remembered only by those of us that loved him. Today I share with you what I shared with those at his service last September. It is my hope that you will come to know him…… him…….and remember him.

Nathan Chris

Most of you personally met Nathan and knew the light that he was in this world. For those who didn’t, I want to tell you a bit about our son.

Nathan Chris Baker was born at Howard County General Hospital in December, 2006. His mother and I were so filled with joy at the birth of our baby boy. Nathan weighed in at 9 lbs 8 oz and for the first time in Baker family history – we had high hopes that we had a football player. Though his attitude would have been great on the football field, his size wouldn’t keep up with his huge heart and I knew he was definitely my son.

Nathan was dedicated to the Lord in front of family and friends at Cornerstone Community Church in Columbia, MD.

Nathan was our Nater Tater, our Taterbug. At times I called him pig-pen because he was always dirty and always had something that he carried around with him – a truck, blanket, pillow case – you name it. Not long after his personality began to show through I began calling him Nate the Great. It was fitting for this small boy with a giant personality. This kid could do anything. He was bigger than life.

He was born with an older brother – Andrew, who we call DrewB or Drewdlebug. The boys are 19 months apart but did almost everything together. Drew said his prayers on Tuesday night and said “God, thank you for taking Nate to heaven quickly and making him an angel to watch over us forever.” Those boys love one another.

Nathan was a mama’s boy from the day he was born and clung to Katie until the day he got on the bus for Kindergarten last week. Nathan was brave getting on that bus but hugged Katie from behind before he got on and she said that she could feel his little heart beating almost out of his chest. He got on the bus and gave the thumbs up. That’s my boy!

Our daughter Kaylee Grace was born in January, 2011 and Nate was hooked at first sight. He loved Kaylee and she him. Every morning Nate would climb onto the sofa, Kaylee would sit in his lap and he would turn on her favorite show so she could watch it. Katie once heard Nate tell Kaylee – I will never let anything happen to you!

Nathan was always a worker – wanting to build and fix stuff. He must have gotten this work ethic from both sets of Grandparents. I can’t remember a day I didn’t go outside to work or make a trip to Lowes or Home Depot that Nate didn’t come with me. He was my little Buddy.

Nate was a half-pint but had a brute strength about him. Until recently – he was not interested in the electronics that the other kids were. He wanted to be outside playing or working. He would help me do anything. Cut the grass, fix the truck , or most recently our well pump. Any reason to work or just get dirty was reason enough for him. One thing we tried and just could never do was catch those Chicmunks at the house. That’s what Nate called chipmunks. We caught every other animal around but never a Chicmunk. I promise I will get them Nater.

The brute strength that Nate had also showed in his attitude. He was hard-headed just like me and at times he and I would battle. Katie would tell me “you realize you are arguing with a 4 year old?” I said yup – and I’m going to win. I remember him slamming doors and throwing things in his room. I’d go in and take whatever he threw and put it in my room and he’d throw something else. This would continue until I had to threaten to take his bed out of his room because he was jumping on it.

I remember an older kid telling Nate “I’m going to punch you in the head.” Nate just looked at him with this cocky attitude and said “Go ahead and see what happens to you.” What he lacked in size – he overcame in heart.

Katie raised him right and taught him about love, caring, family, fun, and God. From the day he was born, Nate loved his mom probably more than anything. I heard someone say this about their kids and I believe it about mine – We raised Drew up and drug Nate up. That was his style – fast and fun. I couldn’t have asked for a better friend to raise my kids with than Katie. You are the best mother in the world. Nate and I love you!

Nate’s sometimes tough exterior often gave way to his true soft and gentle heart. He was kind and caring and loved his mother, DrewB, Kaylee, and I like nothing else. He always wanted us around – just playing. He would say Dad – can we play punches, or jump with me on the trampoline, or push me on the rope swing. I regret that I said no probably more times than yes but I cherish every punches game, trampoline time, and rope swinging I had with him.

Nathan had a great love for his entire family – his Nanny & PaPa, Pappy & Grammy and all of his aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. If Nathan loved you – you knew it, you felt it, and you heard it. I will never forget that.

Nathan worried about others – even at 5 years old he would ask me about work and bad guys. Almost every night he would ask me “Dad – do you have to go to work tonight?” Again I regret that more times than not…..the answer probably wasn’t what he wanted to hear but he understood and took care of things while I was gone.

When I got a marked police car he would walk me out to my car every night helping me to carry my lunch or laptop. I would give him a hug and kiss and say “Love you buddy.” He would always respond “Love you too.” He’d then say Dad “turn on your lights at the bottom of the hill for me.” He would go to the door and watch as I drove away and hit my lights for him.

God blessed us with Nathan Chris for nearly 6 years. Katie and I tried to teach him everything we could in his short life. As I look back on the last few years I realize that he was teaching us more than we were teaching him. He taught me love, he taught me bravery, he taught me selflessness, he taught me caring, he taught me patience, and he taught me the true meaning of living life to the fullest every single day. While I was raising a boy……..he was teaching a man. Nathan Chris – you are my HERO! I love you buddy!

I have plenty of great memories of Nathan and I know that those can’t be taken away. Memories are a great thing – at times they are hard for sure – but great! Pictures can be hard for me at times – they seem to really illicit a strong response. Hard to believe that pictures of my boy that I love so much can hurt so bad. I don’t want it to be like that but it is. Not all pictures evoke such a response – some are harder than others. I’m not sure which ones…….or why.

Memories are a funny thing – I have not dreamed of Nathan since his death – not once. I do remember last October waking up to his voice – clear as day “Mom, Mom……Can I wake up?” I sat up and looked over to Katie’s side of the bed. I immediately knew it wasn’t Drew’s voice that I heard. It was distinctly Nathan – just as he had done each morning “Mom, Mom…….Can I wake up?” At times I wish I would dream about Nathan and then wonder if those dreams would be more difficult than fulfilling. I want to always remember him……..everything about him. I want to make sure that I can recall each memory. Each memory is a piece of him. Each memory is special. Each memory takes me back to him…..The thing I like least about memories is that they are always past tense.

Today…….. September 2, 2013 – 1 year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,766 hours, 525,949 minutes, 31,556,926 seconds I remember. Today as with each passing day I think of him. Today is tough. Tomorrow will bring us 1 second, 1 minute, 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 1 year closer to September 2, 2014. Although tomorrow creates more past tense moments…… brings us one day closer to the promise of someday being reunited with Nathan.

Today, tomorrow, and each day thereafter we will remember him and love him. I hope that today…….you get a chance to know him, love him, and remember him like I did.

Go Out. Be Great.


Nate's Room

Drew and Nate shared a room.   We actually made the choice to put them in the same room long before we had Kaylee because we thought it would be good for their bonding and as they grow.   I don’t know that Nate ever remembered having his own room honestly.  It was “Drew and Nate’s Steeler room”.   Justin spent two weeks during his time off painting over the dark green walls and removing airplane border.  He painted three walls gray and 1 wall with gray, yellow, and black stripes.  Its a cute room!    The boys spent bedtime reading books together.  We’d often hear giggling from the room when they were supposed to be sleeping and often we heard bickering too!   They shared room space, toy space, closet space, everything they knew they shared.    Last summer, it was becoming apparent that as the boys grew they were out growing their little room.  Their clothes were getting bigger so the closet and drawers were overflowing.  They were acquiring more things and the room was just not big enough.  We didn’t have a bigger room to move them to so we had begun brainstorming ways to make more space in their room.   We had priced bunk beds and also looked at building beds with dressers underneath.  We had plans in place to make changes to their room by Christmas 2012.

It’s been a difficult journey for me to enter Drew and Nate’s room.  Because now it’s “Drew’s room” but Nate’s bed still remains as he last left it.   His clothes still lay on the corner of his bed needing to be put away.   We even left the dirty pajamas we found he’d tucked behind his Happy Napper stuffed animal.  His clothes are still folded in his drawers and half the closet is still his.    I still tuck Drew in every night.  I lay with him and hug him.   But I admittedly, don’t spend as much time in his room as I used too.   It’s hard to be in there.  I feel so guilty because that is not fair to Drew.

Today, as I spent the morning trying to unpack from vacations and prepare for the school year, I entered Drew’s room to try to clean and organize.   I still needed to put away the stuff from Drew’s bookbag at the end of last school year.  I needed to unpack his bag from the beach.  I needed to double check our school supplies.  I need to go through his clothes to see what will fit this year and what he needs cause he just keeps growing taller!  In that I’m faced with knowing I don’t have Nate to hand his clothes down to and it’s one more heartbreak.   As I processed through the to-do lists in Drew’s room I found myself getting very upset.  It’s hard to see Nate’s crafts, his junk drawer (yes, he had his own little junk drawer because he kept everything), his baseball picture with his cheesy smile, or the picture of Drew and Nate hugging at the zoo.   I get upset when I try to move things in their room because it means I have to move Nate’s things or be confronted by his untouched space.    Today, my efforts of organizing ended with me on the floor with tear filled eyes clinging to, hugging, and smelling Nate’s shoes.  I miss him.  I miss him so much.  I miss his smile.  I miss his smell.  I miss his spunk.

I know we need to do something with Drew’s room.  We need to organize.  We need to make space.  We need to get him a new bed.  But how do we ever move forward through that?  I can not pack up Nate’s things.  I just cant.  I’ve been struggling with that for a year and this morning I decided – I just cant.    I’m not sure I will ever be able to pack it up and put it away.  I will not ever put Nate away.  He is with us and a part of our lives.

As tears flow, and hit my keyboard as I type, I am heart broken.  My heart aches unbearably.

Next Saturday, there is a playground dedication for Nate’s playground at MES.    Immediately following Nate’s death, we were asked if there were any charities we’d like to make donations to in lieu of flowers.   Without second thought, I spoke up and said, to the playground at Mechanicsville.  I remember as I looked at Justin for reassurance in that decision that he started to cry and said “Yes, to the playground”.  It wasn’t a “charity” but in my mind I couldn’t think of anything  else than helping with what I figured would be possibly a couple hundred dollars donated toward the playground and something Nate would love.   I am still in shock and awe over the generosity of friends, family, the community, and the fundraisers that helped raise all the money needed in only a few short months.    These past few months have been hard.  I never in my life imagined a day where I would be cutting a ribbon at a playground dedication in honor of Nate.  I never imagined a day where I would have to pick out a memorial boulder or plaque.    I never imagined a day in these shoes that we now walk each day in.  But I am thankful we have been blessed with support from so many as we face each new day in these shoes.

All my Love,


“Best Friends Forever”

“Best Friends Forever!”  That will be a statement that will forever be etched in my mind.  A phrase kids say to each other without possibly even knowing the depth of its meaning.  After all forever is a really long time.  But the circumstances of this past year have forever changed how I view friendships, what defines a friend, and shown me the beauty of how life-changing a true friend can be.

Nate and Seth became friends before they even knew it or had a choice about it.  The first time I met Katie, the boys were still forming in our bellies.  Despite being just a week a part in age, and living across the street from each other, we had no idea how similar the two of them were going to be.   In their short years together, they played together every moment possible.  As soon as Seth woke up in the morning, he was asking me to text Miss Katie and ask for Nate to come over.  I would hold him off as long as possible, at least until his brother and sister got on the bus for school, but knowing I wouldn’t hear the end of it until Seth saw Nate coming towards the house.  For Seth’s first 5 ½ years, his life was all about Nate and he would have it no other way.

Nate and Seth were as rough and tumble as two boys could be.  They would spend their days at our house or Nate’s playing in the sandbox with the trucks, building forts with all the couch cushions and blankets that they could find, where of course they wanted to be served snacks and lunch together.  After lunch the pillows would be built into as large a tower as possible so that they could jump and fall off in crazy ways, their idea of playing “Funniest Home Videos”.  They were the daring duo, quick to learn to ride their bikes without training wheels because the fear was just not there.  This was especially true when they were together.  If Nate was by his side, Seth would try just about anything.  I remember one day walking outside to check on them, shortly after they had both learned to ride their bikes, and seeing the two of them riding downhill at full speed in the front yard, watching their pride as they did “tricks” and things my two oldest would have never thought to try.

Inevitably their stubbornness and willfulness led to one of two things…mischief or fighting.  I had learned from experience that if it was quiet for too long, Seth and Nate were both up to no good.  It usually involved the boys pulling the tools from the garage out into the yard as they “worked” on something outside, of course leaving a trail of disaster behind.  They could easily coax each other into things they knew better than to do and were also quick to place the blame on the other one when they got into trouble!  Both Seth and Nate had clear ideas of who was the boss, each one thinking it was themselves.  Frequently they would butt heads trying to figure out just who was the biggest alpha male of the two of them and argue over who had to listen to whom.

Despite it all there was never a question as to whether they loved each other.  After their day of play, antics, and fighting just one thing remained.  Seth would insist on walking Nate down the yard until he would safely cross the street to his house.  I can still see Nate walking up the long uphill drive home, all along the way calling silly names back and forth with Seth and screaming at the top of their lungs, “Best Friends Forever, Seth!”, Best Friends Forever, Nate!”

After Nate passed, I was struck by the huge hole that was left in our lives and Seth’s life.  Nate was like one of my own in so many ways, because there was rarely a day that our family was not around him.  Seth and Nate had been inseparable in just about everything they did from spending their days playing, to t-ball and wrestling, birthdays, even to their first day of kindergarten.  If Nate was doing it, Seth wanted to be there too.  I wondered if at Seth’s age he could even process or comprehend that his friend would no longer be coming to the house, be able to come for sleepovers or birthday parties and special moments that only best friends share.  I saw the pain and loneliness in his eyes when we would chat before bed about Nate and why Nate was now with Jesus and having more fun than we could ever imagine.

As adults, it is easy to be marred by the pain and injustice of this world and criticize a child for their seeming inability to understand the depth of loss and grief.  However, I am learning that the innocence of a child is a beautiful thing.  As adults we overcomplicate things with our own bitterness, skepticism, and doubts.  Children often allow themselves to be accepting of reality without being hindered by it.  Seth knows that he will never again see his friend Nate on this earth, but that sadness is overwhelmed by the knowledge that he will see Nate again one day.  He does not doubt the love and friendship that they shared because it is forever imprinted on his heart. Their love was pure and real and deep.  There is no sadness there. Seth knows that he loves Nate and knows that Nate will forever love him and will be anxiously waiting for Seth to come home.

Nate taught Seth so many things about life…in 5 short years.  Nate taught Seth how a true friend loves you more than himself.  Nate taught Seth that you never have to be afraid with a friend by your side.  Nate taught Seth to stand strong and hold your ground, because sometimes being confident can be just as important as being right.  Lol  Nate taught Seth to have fun and be yourself no matter how silly it looks to anyone else.  Most importantly, Nate taught Seth that Best Friends truly are Forever.  Nothing will separate them because friendship does not end with death.

I Samuel 20:42—“Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name.  The Lord is the witness of a bond between us…forever.”

All My Love,



I was brought to tears as I read Naomi’s words.   The love she has for her son, Nate, my family, and Christ are undeniable.   The childlike faith that children have is a faith I wish we all could know.  I knew Naomi would be an important friend in our journey through grief from the beginning but she has been more to us than she will ever know.    Naomi has been a shoulder to cry on and a strong sister in Christ.   We are forever connected through Christ and our boys.   When I see Seth I see a sparkle in his eye of Nate.  I hope I never lose sight of that.   Naomi, I thank your for sharing your heart in this post.  Love you our dear friend.





A 4th at Home

There’s something about today that hurts. It’s a very raw feeling. The world moves on to celebrate the holiday and it seems we just can’t do it the “old fashioned way.”

A year ago, we’d spent the week on a family vacation at the lake house. My whole family was together. It was a great week. Our families were all complete with 8 cousins having so much fun together. We’d gone for icecream together, taken family pictures together, fished together, cleaned up from a nasty storm together, swam together, danced together, went on a boat ride together, and enjoyed the week. Justin’s shift was going back to work over the 4th of July so I remember I debated staying at the lake a few extra days and letting Justin head back to work but had decided I really wanted to head back with Justin and keep our family together. We have traveled separately many times but it always felt off when we did so in my heart I knew I wanted to head home July 3rd as a family together.

July 4th, 2012 I took the 3 kids to the to our usual fireworks spot. You have to get there hours early to claim your piece of grass and set up camp for the evening. So, in my usual “I’ve got this covered” fashion, I packed up 3 kids, lugged our way to the grass and sat for about an hour as we watched a possible rainstorm on the radar. Of course, before we knew it the skies opened up and the rain was pouring out. I’m sure I was a sight to be seen trying to cart 3 kids, a small cooler of food, a diaper bag, a stroller, a blanket, and a lawn chair as we ran back to the car to wait out the storm. Before we knew it the storm had passed, we had partially dried, and we were back on the grass to wait for fireworks. We met some friends and cousins there as the evening passed and the kids played and had a blast. Nate was so concerned that his Daddy wouldn’t get to see fireworks that he took probably 100 pictures on his Itouch as we watched. So even though Justin wasn’t there with us on that lawn, he was on our mind and Nate wasn’t going to let the evening go by without him. Drew sat in awe of the fireworks and watched pretty quietly in Drew fashion just taking it all in, Nate talked our ears off and bounced from lap to lap as he watched and took pictures to send to his Daddy, and Kaylee sat mesmerized through the whole show.

This morning, I walked out of the upstairs hallway with Kaylee on my hip, she pointed at pictures we have hanging on the wall. As she started pointing, and talking about the pictures, she pointed at one of Justin and I with the boys on 4th of July from several years ago. We talk about Nate all the time. We want to teach her everything we can about him because sadly her memories will mostly be comprised of pictures and what we tell her of. Her brother loved her beyond words. He took care of her. He had sweet lovey eyes for his baby sister. The bond they have is beyond what words can describe. I often think of how their relationship would be now. Would he be shouting praise when she uses the potty? Would he be reading her books at bedtime the way Drew did for him? Would he be teaching her all about cars and trucks and showing her how tools work? I looked at the picture as we talked about Nate and I hugged Kaylee tight. I kissed her sweet forehead and whispered with a tear in my eye, “Oh baby, I miss Nate”. Kaylee looked back at me, leaned in, and said “I miss Nate too Mama.” I’m not sure she actually knows what she said or if she was just mimicking me in conversation but what I do know is that we are teaching her right. We aren’t leaving out any detail or pretending she didn’t have a brother that loved her. She may not remember but we will do everything we can for her and Drew to show them how amazing their brother is.

This week has been hard. I haven’t been able to pinpoint the reason until now. Last night as we were still talking about what to do for fireworks, and where to go, I realized that it’s the holiday that has me missing Nate. 4th of July represents summer and all the things Nate loved. Summer vacations, cookouts, family, friends, socializing, being outside, pools, etc. Summer is Nate. Nate is summer. The two went hand in hand. Tonight, we decided to stay in. It’s okay to do things a little different. Drew asked if we could have a family night inside with a family room campout, ice cream, and a movie. Admittedly, I cried as I told Justin, you know Nate wouldn’t have let this happen. Nate would be arguing his point of going to sit in the heat all day just to see the evening fireworks. And we would of done it as a family together. But the reality is, today is different. Today, it’s not so much about fireworks, it’s about our family, right here in these 4 walls and what’s best for us in this moment.

July 4th, 2012 was the last holiday we celebrated with Nate. July 4th is one step closer to September. July 4th is everything summer and everything that reminds us of Nate.

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17 NLT)

I tried to look through pictures of the fourth of July week to share with this post and the pictures were to emotional and to raw. There are a hundred pictures of smiling faces by the water. We had fun. We were in our happy place. I can’t bring myself to share those pictures. It’s just too much still. They are mine. They are ours. So, until I’m ready to share, here is a picture Nate took of fireworks last year.

All My Love,


A Mother's Heart

The following was written by my amazing mother about a month ago and I was saving it to post at the right time.  Today, I woke up and I knew it was time to share:

I have learned more about me in the past nine months than I ever cared to know.    I can see now that I have run from everything in my life that I can’t control.   Every time things didn’t go my way or the way I thought they should or if I didn’t feel in control I would run or hide from that situation.    I think mothering was good because when my children were little I was in control. When I made the decision to move to the lake it was to blend in.  We wanted to slow down.    We wanted to have that place where my family would always feel welcome and we could come together to make those memories you never lose.   We felt like life was passing us by too quick and we wanted to slow it down and enjoy our 8 beautiful grandkids and give them the simple fun and memories that they deserved without us being so busy.  Never did we think they would be memories we wish we had not endured.Everything, we did at the lake house, we did for the kids.    We wanted that downtime families dream of.   We wanted Thanksgivings, holidays, and lots of weekends and weeks with Nanny and Papa.   We made and built the perfect room with bunk beds built into the wall.   I watched for sales so I could match some beautiful quilting on the bunk beds and bed.   Now I cannot bring myself to look at a pottery barn catalog.
While we were building the dock we would have to give Nate daily updates.   He was so excited.    He kept saying “Nanny make papa save some of the work for me to do when I get there”.    We would send him daily updates of the cranes at work and the dock being built.  He loved it.   He was all boy. Now –  I can’t sit on my dock. 
Last summer before the kids visited I’d gone to a yard sale and picked up some odd and end toys to put on the toy shelf we’d built for the kids.  Nate had picked toys and put them in a box to bring to the lake house to leave so that he could play with them every time he visited.  Now, I can’t pull out the toys the kids loved.     We completely understand that this may never be the family lake house weDSC00371 dreamed of.    
All we want in life now is for our children to find the happiness that makes them whole again.     I would have carried all this grief for my kids.    I could always make everything right.   I couldn’t make this right. I couldn’t jump in and fix it as I did when they were kids.  Our Nate was gone.  We don’t know why.  I worry that I missed something important that I will never figure out.     Sometimes I wonder why it takes such a major and hard loss for us to realize how important the simple things with our family are.     You know, the other morning when I read the article about the playground being erected this summer in memory of Nate it made me smile.      Then I was getting ready for work and started to cry and say but God, why did he have to die for this good to happen and God clearly spoke to me right then and there and said But why mine?I will spend every day from here on standing next to my daughter and her family.    I cannot run from this.  Our Nate is gone but we have so much to still learn from Him.   I just know it!
Love ,


Today has been 18 years since I lost my “Grandiddy”.  I can look back and remember that day vividly knowing where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news.  I think this was the first time in my life that I felt that true hurt and pain.  I loved my Grandiddy.  Even as a teenager, I knew the pain I was feeling in the loss of my grandfather could not compare to pain my mother was feeling in losing her father.  And I knew in those days that she hurt for us children as we hurt for him too.    Today, is 10 months since we lost Nate.   I could say a thousand things I feel today but the one I want to share is this.  Today, my mother hurts.  She hurts for her father.  She hurts for grandson.  And she hurts for me.   No matter how old I am or where life goes – she still hurts for me and I still hurt for her.  There is a bond between parent and child that will never be broken.   Although, I am confident Grandiddy met Nate at Heavens Gate and I bet they are dancing in streets of Heaven – we cry tears here on Earth.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:28, 29 NLT

“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.”  Ephesians 1:18 NLT

Our love for Nate continues to grow.  My son is still teaching me many things from Heaven and I will continue to learn and grow.  My heart has grown bigger.  My love pours out.  There are hard days but He gives me strength to persevere.  I pray that all of our hearts will continue to be flooded with Hope.

All My Love,



All winter I waited for spring and summer thinking that when the warmer weather approached, the signs of new life outside, the flowers blooming, and the smell of sweet grilling that I would feel refreshed and renewed but if anything I feel more off than ever. The warmer weather brings a new set of firsts, a new set of memories, a new side of grief, a new breed of anxiety, and a fear of September. The days just keep passing by. Sometimes a day will seem so slow and some days I wonder where time goes. Spring came and baseball season has almost finished. I love watching Drew play sports but baseball just wasn’t the same without chasing Nate out of the dirt. It wasn’t the same without lugging his backpack full of snacks and trucks to the fields. It wasn’t the same without him asking if it was time to go to the snack shack yet. I miss that cute face. Right now, in this moment, I wish next week would not happen. Next week is the last day of the school year for Drew and as happy as I am to have a break for the school year, and look ahead to lazy days of summer and vacations, I am also filled with sadness of not seeing Nate’s face as he gets off that bus the last day of school running up the driveway ready to tackle the summer like a champ. He would be bouncing off the walls with summer excitement right now. He would taking advantage of every warm minute outside and coming inside exhausted with his feet filthy dirty headed for a shower. There is something about that last day of school that I am just not ready for emotionally. Maybe it’s the fear of the official start of summer. Summer may be my biggest hurdle. It’s a hurdle I’m going to work through but it will take some time. Nate loved being outdoors and loved summer. So many of our memories are of Nate outside playing in the dirt, in the sprinkler, on the trampoline, on the swing set, playing tag, riding bikes, you name it and he probably did it. Last week I stumbled across a picture of him riding his bike down our front yard hill with his preschool back pack on and I had to chuckle. He cracked us up. He was full of life and had no fear. He was a bit of a momma’s boy when he was sick and he would get his feelings hurt easily but when it came to being playful there wasn’t much he wouldn’t try. We miss him so much.

I’ve heard that people who’ve lost loved ones will say that they now view the sky differently. Until recently that view didn’t make total sense to me. Yes, I viewed rain differently – it was no longer just rain. Some days, as the rain poured, I saw God just pouring out his love. I really hadn’t looked at the sky any different until a few months ago. I was driving back from errands on an emotional day and happened to look up. The sky was a beautiful blue with a few clouds and as I looked up I could see rays of sunshine shimmering through the clouds. It was again as if Gods love was pouring out sunshine onto me. I began to really see the sky then. A few weeks later, on a beautiful night, I looked outside and saw a nearly full moon. It was just gorgeous. I immediately thought of Nate and that “Blue Moon” he was so excited to take pictures of with his Nanny last year. I’m not even sure Nate fully understood what he was so excited about but the spontaneity of pulling off on a side street to take pictures of a “blue” moon was enough to spark interest and excitement for Nate. I took a picture of the full moon last month and asked Justin if he had seen it too and he immediately conveyed he was thinking the same thing I was. It reminded us of Nate. Within minutes, I’d received several messages from family and friends about the full moon. I had an overwhelming sense that Nate was beaming down on us that night. Just a few nights later, as we sat watching fireworks at a Frederick Keys baseball game, I found myself in tears watching fireworks as I thought about Nate. In a glance, I looked over in the sky to see, another nearly full moon. It brought me peace to thinking of Nate and the full moon and that he was beaming down in that moment with us. So, now, I understand the sky a little better. I see it in a different light.

Last night I had vivid dreams. I am not a big “dreamer” and when I do dream I usually don’t remember anything by morning. I remember a few months ago having a dream and being able to hear Nate and see his body but never in my dream could I see his face. I woke up that morning feeling very frustrated with myself because I just wanted to see Nate’s face. I kept thinking “If I could just see his face”. I had a dream last night and I saw Nate’s face. It was beautiful. I’m not sure what most of the dream was but I think it was an ordinary day and I remember just being in awe of seeing Nate. I held his face with both hands. I said to him “You’re here” as he looked at me with confusion. Even in my dream I knew what my reality was but for that brief moment… it was as if it was “all a dream”. I woke up feeling sad this morning and missing Nate more than ever because I had that brief moment with him. Maybe, God, let me see Nate’s face last night to show me that he is okay. God does hear me. He does hear my prayers, my hopes, and my heartache.

There are days that I get by just by going through the motions. There are days that I embrace every moment with an open heart. Then there are days where I’d really just rather lock myself in a box and not think or talk or feel. There are days where I laugh and smile and embrace every blessing. There are days where I really feel like I’m living a horrible dream. There are days I have so much to say and share and there are days I’d like to lock up every memory and keep them as only mine. The process of healing is a long and windy road with bumps and hills along the way. Just when I have a few days that I feel normal (whatever normal is) it seems like I have a day to set me back. But as quickly as that setback, lock me in a box day, hits I pick myself back up and keep moving forward. I keep moving forward because I make a decision each day to wake up and be bitter or better. I do not want to live my life as a bitter servant. I want to live my life knowing that He is the hand that holds me when I am sad and the hand that pushes me through the day when I need pushed. And He is the God who smiles with me when I smile too. He is my Hope.

I love this song “Beam Me Up” by Pink. As I wrote this post and thought about the dream, my holding Nate’s face, and the moon this song came to mind.


All my love,



Weekend before last I escaped reality for a weekend away with friends!   I was excited for the weekend as it was time away with friends that I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.   We live 1.5 to 2 hours away from each other and with the busy days of life as our children grow it becomes harder and harder to schedule time for visits.  So we decided a few months ago that we would make the time for a girls weekend.  Best Decision Ever.   We went to Lancaster, PA.   Nothing big, just a weekend of relaxing, nice dinners, some shopping, and a winery visit.

Friday we shared wine, went to a nice dinner, and spent time just catching up!  We were awake by 7 and out of bed (because that’s what moms do even when they have a quiet hotel to sleep in) on Saturday morning and decided to go for a run in downtown Lancaster prior to shopping at the farmers market.    These 3 girls are all part of a group running the Diva half marathon with me in September in memory of Nate and we thought it was fitting to get a training run in together.  We all run at different paces and are all at different points in our training progress but Saturday morning we headed out for a run that couldn’t have gone better.  We went out with the mentality of getting at least 2 miles in but to see where it went.  The run was going well and around mile 3.5 we lost track of where we were while running in a city we didn’t know.  After a quick laugh, a moment of panic, and the help of a cell phone GPS we found our way back to the street we parked on!    At the point where we lost track we were about a mile and a half away from our starting location so by the time we got back to that parking lot we were pushing the 5 mile mark.  While we had only anticipated an easy 2 mile morning run at 5 miles we decided to push through 1 more mile to hit 6 and made another loop around a few block radius.   That last mile was meant to be…  while running that last mile I hung back a few paces to admire the three stunning women ahead of me.  Admiring their love for me, their love for Nate and my family, their love for their friends and their family, and admiring what wonderful women they are.    I thought about the training and the race we were embarking on and of course, I thought about the reason we were doing it too.  For Nate.    It was a bittersweet moment as I was lost in thought as one friend turned to me and said “Look at that little boy…  those are just like Nate’s shoes.”   Sure enough as I looked over I saw this cute little boy crossing the street with his father wearing the same shoes at Nate had.   Nate had picked out new shoes for Kindergarten that were black with bright yellow soles.  Reebok Zigs…. he was so proud of those shoes.   Being our 2nd boy he often wore Drew’s hand me downs but when he picked those “Pittsburgh Steeler” brand new shoes he wore them proudly.   He couldn’t even wait till we got home and had insisted on wearing them out of the mall that afternoon.  As we walked through the mall Nate walked by the sports store where a huge inflatable Ravens player stood.  He looked at that Ravens man and punched him right in the side.  The whole thing fell over and I so badly wanted to crack up laughing as I thought about the irony of Nate in his new Steeler colored shoes knocking out the Ravens guy.  But in shock, I was so worried he broke the display that I’d end up having to buy and I’d be coming home with a broken Ravens inflatable football player, that I literally just stood and watched it deflate wondering if anyone else had seen the incident.   Luckily as quickly as it deflated it started to re-inflate again.   After I saw the display was okay, I looked at Nate and busted out laughing as I tried to explain that it was inappropriate to have done that.  He didn’t seem to care and I’m sure my giggles didn’t help.  He thought of himself as hysterical and was just so proud to be sporting his new kicks.  When I saw that little boy in those shoes I was reminded of Nate and his shoes.   Just as that bittersweet moment touches me now with pride and tears as I write it touched me the same on Saturday morning as I finished a 6.5 mile run with some really awesome girls.  Girls that, I know, will walk beside each other through this life no matter what shoe we are to walking in.

During the weekend I found time to re-kindle relationships and found lots of time to just be silly and laugh.   There were lots of silly faces, laughter, old jokes, and new memories.    Thank you girls for a great weekend away and for the time to relax!



Tough Mudder Go Out Be Great Team



Life is not a sprint; it is a long and grueling marathon. There are peaks and valleys along the way – peaks that allow for gazing down on the glories abound and the replenishing of mental strength, valleys that inflict pain with each step and challenge the mind as much as the body.

In January 2013, a group of family and friends agreed that we wanted the challenge of competing in the Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder 2013. I had wanted to do one for a while and decided that we would run in memory of Nathan. I knew that this would be the type of event that Nate enjoyed – mud and obstacles. Each team member purchased a Go Out. Be Great. t-shirt with the NCB Foundation logo on the back and Be Great For Nate 2013 on the front.
April came quickly and as I talked with members of the team I could tell that the anticipation was growing. On Saturday, April 20th we put on our GOBG shirts and headed to the event. Even before leaving the hotel I saw the looks of other participants as they saw the shirts. I knew that the shirts alone were prodding people – Who is Nathan Chris Baker? What is this – Be Great For Nate? I knew that this event was already a success. Not only would others learn about Nate but Tough Mudder events have raised over 5 million dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project and I could not think of a better cause.

When we got to the event you could feel the excitement. I was amped up seeing the 10 other guys wearing shirts in honor of Nate. Prior to beginning the Mudder each member climbs a 6 foot wall and is gathered with other participants into somewhat of a starting gate. Once in the starting gate the announcer begins to work the crowd up and get people ready for the event. At some point in the pep talk the announcer entered into the crowd with the microphone. He walked the crowd and spotted a GOBG team member and read aloud over the microphone the front of the shirt – Be Great For Nate. He walked towards our group and asked “Who is Nate?” I choked out the following: “Nate is my son. He drowned is September 2012.” At that moment I saw the looks of the other 100 + people in the crowd – sympathy, encouragement, the pain that they carried for the loss of the person that they were running for. The announcer came over and gave me a huge bear hug and announced “Be Great For Nate.” The others in the crowd cheered. It was powerful. 10 other men who I admire greatly were there to experience this moment and I felt the power of each one of them with me. I knew that they also felt the pain and pride that I was feeling. I thought to myself – how can I begin a 10-12 mile event with a lump in my throat and fighting back tears?

As we approached the final obstacle we lined up to run through the finish line and there was another announcer with a microphone. We came to the obstacle and he stopped us and asked – “Who is Nate?” One of the team members told him and he began chanting “Be Great For Nate. Be Great For Nate. Be Great For Nate.” We ran through the last obstacle and through the finish line while others around us cheered “Be Great For Nate.” I ended the race as I had begun – emotional at the thought of my son that I miss every moment of every day. I was physically and emotionally spent but proud that we all completed the race and we did it as a team.

I knew that this event would be physically challenging but I never expected the emotional toll that it would take on me. After everyone dried off and warmed up we all gathered at a local restaurant and celebrated the completion of the event. I sat for several moments at the end of the table and struggled to keep my emotions from getting the better of me. I looked down the table at the great family and friends that had joined us and was again reminded of how fortunate we are to have so many great people in our lives.

For me this race meant a lot of things: honoring Nathan, physical challenges, a time with family, time to replenish friendships of the past and introduce friends who will no doubt have a bond with people they previously did not know. We accomplished all of these things during the Mudder but the single greatest thing that I took from this day is knowing that for every valley in life – there is a peak. I know that my body can tolerate whatever my mind can endure.

Since Nathan’s death each day challenges me. Regardless of the exterior – I often fight off the emotions that are brought on at the thought of him. Some days the valleys of life take an emotional toll on me, other days I am able to take in the view from the peaks which allows me to build a reserve of mental toughness. This morning I met with a friend and we talked about life and death. He gave me a great analogy of life and a race: We begin life much like a race – with plenty of energy and vigor to tackle anything. As we progress in the race of life we encounter obstacles and hurdles (physically & emotionally) that test the toughness of each runner. At the finish line of the race of life we are greeted by a celebration of what we have accomplished.

We all complete the race of life……..some reach the finish line before others. I only wish we could finish as a team.
Go Out. Be Great. -Justin

“You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.” - Steve Prefontaine    Early last summer, as I trained for what now seems like an elementary school “fun run”, this quote would have held true.   For every sport or event that I have prepared for, my motives have always been selfish.  Self-satisfaction; sense of achievement; personal success; personal fitness and appearance.  These are the normal and expected reasons for one to find the inner drive to continue training. It wasn’t until I began training for the Tough Mudder that I had a real purpose – Nate.  Running provides a person with a lot of time to reflect.  There wasn’t a time that I trained where I didn’t think about Nate.  It would stir emotions of grief, anger, joy when reflecting on memories, and sometimes even guilt.  But the opportunity to honor Nate with other family members and friends would push my drive every night.  I would change the quote to read “…I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to honoring Nate.”  We were running the first mile of the course when Justin and I were discussing how much Nate would have enjoyed watching us at the Mudder.  I told Justin that there is no way he would have stayed home with the other kids because he would have insisted on coming to watch.  Justin’s response, “You wouldn’t be able to keep him out of the mud”.  One of Tough Mudder’s taglines is “You cannot complete a Tough Mudder course alone”.  No matter how many members we had on our team last Saturday, there was at least one more with us.   ~ Chris, Nate’s Uncle

This past weekend was an experience to say the least. It was a challenge. It was cold. It was windy. It was wet. It was muddy. It was mentally draining and physically grueling at times. Let me tell you, it was worth every cold, windy, wet, muddy minute! Our team had one common goal for the Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder. We were going to tackle the Mudder for Nate Baker, and tackle it we did. Our team showed NO quit, and ALL heart. We overcame nervousness, anxiety, fear, pain. We overcame the bumps, bruises, cuts and scrapes, and accomplished something GREAT.  Justin Baker has been a lifelong friend to me. He has been my absolute best friend since High School. Anybody who knew us growing up, would tell you no different. We were inseparable. We were high school teammates. We were college roommates. There is nothing in this world I wouldn’t do for Justin and his family. What Justin and Katie have been through since September 2nd, 2012, I can only describe as my worst nightmare. Any parents worst nightmare. To see what THEY have overcome, is truly inspiring. It is courageous. It is admirable. I know it is an on-going battle and will be for a very long time, quite possibly forever. We will be there for them. We all will be there for them. Believe me when I tell you that Nate was with me during the Mudder. No question. I am not a very religious person, but I felt Nate with me on that cold Saturday. Whenever I felt like I was too tired, or too cold, the thought of Nate helped me keep me going. No doubt about it. I was not going to let Nate down. I was not going to let Justin and Katie down. I was determined. I can say with confidence that Eric, Brian, Mike, Adam, John, Jason, Chris, Greg, Billy, and of course Justin felt the same way. I am proud to have accomplished this with these guys. They are warriors. When the going got tough, the tough got MUDDY! From the Berlin Walls, to the Pirates Booty, to the Arctic Enema from HELL, all the way to the end, where I face-planted in the Electroshock Therapy obstacle, it was an experience I would gladly take on again, especially with these guys! So, to all my fellow mudders, I congratulate you. I congratulate Justin and Katie. We were absolutely GREAT for NATE!   ~ Doug, Nate’s Uncle

Several people will be writing about our Tough Mudder (TM) experience as a contribution to this blog post.  I wanted to discuss it from the perspective of preparing for the Tough Mudder.  Like most of the rest of our team, I had no idea what to expect of the Tough Mudder and NO IDEA what to do to prepare for it.  I read the recommendations on the Tough Mudder website, read blog posts, and watched YouTube videos.  I searched high and low.  What I ultimately decided was to run, and run a lot.  Sure there was weight training, plyometrics, and other cardio activities.  But what there was a lot of, was running.  Before preparing for the TM I had never run more than 3 miles, and even that was a recent occurrence.  I slowly built up my runs to break in my body and my new shoes (the shoes were an easier break in).  I ran with other TM team members when we could coordinate schedules but often I ran by myself.  As the weeks passed I was able to work up to a 10 mile run the Saturday before the Mudder.  TEN MILES!  That is further than I drive to work every day.  That is outside the delivery radius of my favorite Chinese Restaurant!  Who runs that far?  I do now, I guess.  It didn’t come easy, though.  There were times where I could have stopped, walked back to my car, went home and drank a beer or six.  But I couldn’t do that.  I had to push on.  Not because I paid money to do the Mudder.  That would have been easy to justify my way out of worrying about.  No, it was because we were doing it for Nate.  We were running in his honor and for the Nathan Chris Baker Foundation.  We were doing it for our sense of accomplishment, sure.  But largely, that collection of individuals (Justin, Jason, Chris, Billy, Mike, Doug, Eric, Greg, Adam, John, and me), were all doing it for a reason much bigger than bragging rights or personal accomplishment. We were doing it for Nate.  Countless times while working out or running, often during the solemn runs by myself, I would think of him and why we were doing this.  That could not have been more evident than when we were preparing to start the race, our team standing in a crowd of other mudders, and the Tough Mudder emcee said “Be Great for Nate.  Who’s Nate?”  When Justin responded to him, the emcee then shared it with the whole crowd and instructed everyone to “Be Great for Nate.”  Standing there among dozens of strangers, sadly many of whom were running for someone they lost, we were all one.  We were running for Nate, running for late friends, fallen soldiers, fallen officers, cancer casualties, cancer survivors, etc.  Running a few miles, even 10 miles, doesn’t seem so tough now.  Especially when given the motivation and reason to Go Out and Be Great.  Be Great For Nate.  ~ Brian, Nate’s Uncle

It was truly an honor to join this group of guys in the attempt to complete the Tough Mudder. I couldn’t think of a better way to remember Nate’s free spirit than a mud run full of obstacles. It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done physically, but quitting never crossed my mind, every time I looked up and saw the shirt of one of my teammates, I knew I was going to finish, no matter what. The strength to carry on was something I thought I knew the meaning of, I have always competed in sports growing up and have run in marathons where physical endurance has been key, but only recently have I realized what true strength and endurance are in seeing how Justin and Katie have pushed on in these last 8 months. True strength resides in the soul and stems from love. I know Justin and Katie will continue to show their strength in the future because of their love for Nate. This Tough Mudder was more than a show of endurance like my other races have been, it was an emotional journey for me and our strength came from our love for Nate. I look forward to making this an annual event and completing other events in the memory of Nate.  Go Out. Be Great. ~Mike, Nate’s Uncle


Nate Baker is a Tough Mudder!  That’s how I remember him. At the ball field playing in the gravel, rolling down the hill and jumping off the bleachers. That little man had that fire in his eyes, he was afraid of nothing and full of adventure. Nate was, and forever will be the epitome of the Tough Mudder spirit. I am honored to have run the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder with Nate’s father and family, the team did great! Go Out. Be Great.  ~ Adam, Friend of Family 

When Justin first asked me about doing the Tough Mudder in Nate’s memory, I was 100% in. This was motivation to get in better shape and I will continue to get in better shape because of it. I was glad to be a part of this team and it was a Great experience. I have never gone through so much emotion from moment to moment, feeling sad then pumped up. When the MC asked Justin, after looking at his shirt, “Who is Nate”?  It put things in perspective for me and the main reason we were there. When the MC said your participating for your son while he’s looking down on us today and he said to the crowd, ” these are the types of people you are racing with, people who have overcome difficult times in their lives”. I knew The Go Out. Be Great. team knew what our mission was, to make Nate proud and show how much he is loved! We did just that, we got through the tough mudder as a resilient team. We persevered through the cold, the terrain and the obstacles- much like Justin and Katie have persevered during an extremely  difficult time. I am so proud to call them my friends and  will strive to be as Great as they are in living their lives! Thank you for asking me to participate, it meant a lot especially with friends dedicating our success to someone who couldn’t be there physically, but he was our strength to finish! It was a nice reunion with life long friends and it was Great meeting new friends!  ~ Greg, Friend of Family

Be Great for Nate. Hooah!  The energy was incredible and it continued to grow as we crossed the first wall of the day and into the starting pit. Numbers were painted across my forehead. My compression shirt felt tight and my shoes were triple knotted. I was pumped and I felt powerful.  I was anxious to find out if months of training had me prepared. As we stood among the others in our wave, the adrenaline just kept building. The starting announcer began reinforcing the reason that everyone was taking part in the pending mud, miles and obstacles. Dedication! Commitment! Strength! Courage! Perseverance! Pride! With each statement there was a resonating “hooah” from the crowd. Amped, I was jumping up and down like a fighter who had just entered the octagon. And as he walked through the crowds he caught sight of the writing on our team shirts. And as he asked who Nate was, I turned to my left. There was Justin who proudly identified Nate and bravely choked out the words that explained why our team was there. The announcer began to yell, “Be great for Nate!” And the many replied, “Hooah!” Over and over again. And the power I was feeling was elevated by the pride I had of being part of such an event. For being part of our team. All of us there out of respect and honor for a life cut short. There to be part of something bigger than myself. Bigger than just an event. An opportunity to support a grieving family. Through mud, miles and obstacles, through the pain of crossing walls and withstanding shocks, possibly, in some way, lessening the pain and hurt, if only for the day. This feeling continued through the event. An event that required strength, determination and camaraderie. That required greatness. As we approached the finish, there was the same announcer. Again he saw our shirts.  The words on our shirts now covered in mud. Mud that was like badges of courage. And pride. With powerful words he affirmed what we were feeling. This day was for Nate. Be Great for Nate! Hooah! Be Great for Nate! Hooah! Be Great for Nate! Hooah. ~ Bill, Friend of Family

Go Out. Be Great. Four simple, but very powerful words that mean so much to a lot of people. It has been difficult over the past months knowing that some of our closest friends had to deal with so much, and not being able to do a single thing about it. You feel very helpless. I’ve known the Bakers for a number of years now. I’ve coached Drew in a number of sports with my son. I still think about Nate quite often, wishing that he was still here. I can tell you that Nate often was shy around me. As much as I tried to joke around with him, he would sit there silent, almost hiding from me. Then, one day, I figured out how to get through to him, I tickled him. So, from then on out, at every practice, I would come around, chase him down and tickle him. It was really starting to work, and he appeared to be coming around. I miss tickling that little guy.  I witnessed how strong the family was, and really admired Justin and Katie. They demonstrated strength, courage, perseverance, and faith. It truly amazed me. I wear my wristband every day to work, and I look at those four simple words. It is so much more than going out and being great.  When Justin told me he wanted to do a Tough Mudder, I was overjoyed. I had completed two events last year, and felt the camaraderie with these events, and found that the Tough Mudder to live up to being one of the toughest events on the planet. I felt very lucky to have the opportunity to be on his team. I was honored to share this event with him.  Eleven folks in all decided to join this team to run in Nate’s honor. Nine of which had no idea what they had signed up for. As one of the two veterans’ on the team, I felt more pressure running this event. This pressure was more self-imposed than anything else. I wanted to help take care of this team, set the example, and help them through this journey that we were about to undergo. I wanted to do this for Justin, a guy I admire, and really look up to. I wanted to do this for Nate, to show him that our bunch could conquer this course together. I felt so privileged to be a part of this team.  For Christmas, I received a brand new GoPro from my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. I was super excited to document this journey (my previous two Mudders found us borrowing a GoPro, only to have it run out of memory, or battery power). Two weeks prior to this event, I went to check the camera, and make sure everything was working, and nothing. No power. No lights. Nothing. I emailed GoPro, while I was on travel for work, and received some troubleshoot instructions. So, I called my patient wife, and helped walk her through the procedure. Still nothing. The clock was ticking. It was now Sunday, 6 days before our event and I didn’t have a GoPro. Finally, the GoPro person sent me return instructions, letting me know it would take longer than a week to get the camera back. Not ready to give up, I overnighted the camera on Tuesday, and requested that GoPro overnight a new camera back to me, in hopes of getting one in time. Wednesday morning, I received an email from GoPro saying one was on the way and it arrived Thursday, two days before the event. It powered up great, but I then ran into my next problem. It only had 2 hours with of memory. The Mudder would last at least 3.5 hours. So, that night, I searched for a bigger memory card, and found a random Radio Shack that had a bigger card. I left work early on Friday, drove to the wrong store, then eventually found the right store, with this larger memory card. More memory, check. We left for WV, and drove through a monsoon to get there. On the way to dinner that night, Adam and I were talking and realized the next thing we needed to think about was a backup battery. The memory was plenty, but looking online, the battery was only going to last 3 hours. On the way to dinner, we saw Dick’s Sporting Goods, and had a thought. We called them, but they didn’t have any batteries. I then remember seeing a Best Buy nearby, and quickly checked online to see that they had a GoPro battery in stock. But, Best Buy closed in 20 minutes. Adam and I ordered our beers at dinner, jumped in my truck, drove to Best Buy, ran in, bought the battery and returned back before our beers even hit the table. I would have said that this was all luck, but I think I’ve convinced myself that Nate was looking down on us helping us. When you see the video that we took with the GoPro (5.5 hours in all), you will understand that it was meant to be that we documented our entire journey. We needed to Go Out. Be Great.  I can’t describe the bond that I have with the other 10 teammates. I have the utmost respect for every single one of them. What a tough journey. I’d do it again in a heart beat. I know if my heart Nate was looking at us, cheering us on the entire way. I know Nate helped make sure I could get my GoPro back in time, and help me locate more memory, and an extra battery. I know Nate was with us at the beginning to the end of our Tough Mudder journey. I feel very lucky and thankful to have the Baker’s in my life. Well, I was only expecting to write a very short blog (I am not a blogger by any stretch of the imagination). I guess to wrap things up, I am reminded of those four simple words on my bracelet that remind me of Nathan Chris Baker every day, Go Out. Be Great. ~ John, Friend of Family