At Nate’s service, the talented Melody Workman sang through emotion filled eyes, Natalie Grant’s, “Held” for us.  The song was and still is heart wrenching, breath taking, and overwhelmingly beautiful.   I don’t remember much of the service to be honest with you.   But I know when “Held” was sung, it held my heart through the tears that fell.

Following Nate’s service, I listened to that song many days on repeat.  Some days it brought me peace.  Some days it drove me, I’d belt it out as we drove and listened to Drew just belt it out in the back seat as well. Some days it brought tears that streamed off my face like a waterfall.   If I’m being totally honest there came a point in time where the music from Nate’s service and from the days after his service that actually became painful to listen to.  I have a track of songs that a good friend put together for us from the service and songs meant to carry us.  And they did carry me for a period of time.  Until I found that when I turned them on, they suddenly became sad and washed me with deep pain and grief. It felt as if my body would warp right back into the days and weeks and months following Nate’s death and would paralyze me with pain. Heart. Breaking. Pain.  I couldn’t bear them.  So I stopped listening.   And honestly, when it hit my shuffle playlist, there were songs I had to skip because I knew if I listened I would flash back into a time of deep, deep pain.

Recently, I was provoked to really dig into the meaning behind the song that carried me through a period of time.   I found the songwriters blog that told the story behind the song.  You can read here:

“Sherry is my mother-in-law.  She had mentioned her daughter Erica to me at different times, but I remember one conversation in particular when she talked about Erica’s birth and death in detail.  She spoke through tears about the pain of carrying a child to term and then having to let her go without even getting to take her home from the hospital.  She told me about the still, small voice that spoke to her in the delivery room, saying: You have to choose how you will carry this loss after this moment.  You can choose bitterness.  Or you can choose to let me wrap you up in peace that can’t be explained and that will lead to hope.  You can choose to trust that you are not alone, and that everything you suffer here will someday be redeemed.”

I read those words and my heart raced.  It was as if I had put them into that blog.  As if this mother had really experienced the exact same things I had.  I even blogged months ago about being "Bitter or Better".   I remember very clearly on September 3rd, 2012 making that decision in my mind of how I would carry through this.    My loss hurts, it’s pain that can’t be expressed in words, but is wrapped in peace that leads to hope, and that can’t be explained.

This is what it means to be held. How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life. And you survive. This is what it is to be loved. And to know that the promise was. When everything fell we’d be held.

I remember sitting with a heavy feeling as rescue crews searched for Nate .  Still.  Paralyzed.  Lifeless myself.  Unable to move.  It felt as if there were weights on me so heavy they weighed me down so I could not move.   I just watched knowing what was happening but not able to move to do anything.  I didn’t talk.  I didn’t scream.  I just sat.  I remember knowing that I wanted to do something and not being able to peel myself out of the chair.   It was as if arms had wrapped around me and just held me and wouldn’t let me go.  That feeling is one that when I am deep in sorrow I can still feel.    It took me months to understand that feeling.   One night, during a bible study, it came to me.  It was God.  He’s had his arms around me tightly.  He was holding me the whole time.   He literally wrapped his arms around me to hold me, to keep me from screaming in pain, to love me, and carry me through the days to come.

And He hasn’t stopped since.  xoxo, Katie


When feeling worn down… I write.  And this is what comes out…  But JOY does come in the morning.
I am so tired of being tired.    I want my old self back.  I want my old life back.  I want Nate back.

Will grief always be such an exhausting weight to carry around?

Some days when the exhaustion sets in on top of exhaustion and I feel like I’m using every ounce of what I have left I get this urge to just throw my hands up and say I’m done.  I’m tired of fighting.   I wish grief were a weight I could just put down for a day.   It’s a heavy burden to carry each day and one that can only wear you down with time.  I wish grief could be boxed up and only opened when I have the energy to carry it.    The road of grief is long.  It is a road that I never imagined I’d journey through.  But here I am, journeying through, stumbling along the way, but still moving.

The pain is in everything we do.  A mothers heart never stops.  A father son outing.  Kaylee asking over dinner “Where did Nate go” with a curious look in her eyes as she tries to make sense of it all.   An empty bed, a sippy cup, a matchbox car turning up in a corner, a picture, a story, a coloring page with his artwork, a wrestling tournament, an empty seat in a car, and memories everywhere.

I’ve heard that when we are feeling so worn down we are the most vulnerable.  Maybe that’s why when I feel worn, is when I share the most.  It’s when I remove the mask and let it out.   It’s also when I ultimately look to God and say, okay I’m done.   I need you.   Don’t let me lose hope.    I want to trust you to  lead me through this journey and bring me to solid ground.

I can barely stand right now
Everything is crashing down
And I wonder where You are

I try to find the words to pray
I don’t always know what to say
But You’re the one who can hear my heart

Even though I don’t know what Your plan is
I know You make beauty from these ashes

I’ve seen joy and I’ve seen pain
And on my knees I call Your name
Here’s my broken Hallelujah
With nothing left to hold onto
I raise these empty hands to You
Here’s my broken
Here’s my broken Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You know the things that have brought me here
You know the story of every tear
‘Cause You’ve been here from the very start

Even though I don’t know what Your plan is
I know You make beauty from these ashes

I’ve seen joy and I’ve seen pain
And on my knees I call Your name
Here’s my broken Hallelujah
With nothing left to hold onto
I raise these empty hands to You
Here’s my broken
Here’s my broken Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

When all is taken away, don’t let my heart be changed
Let me always sing Hallelujah
When I feel afraid, don’t let my hope be erased
Let me always sing Hallelujah

- The Afters, Broken Hallelujah

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you.  Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.  Psalms 143:8

I love that I can wake up the next day feeling refreshed, re-energized, and full of strength and love to tackle another day.   There’s an inspiration deep inside of me to be great each day.  That feeling doesn’t come from myself alone. A year and a half ago I would not have predicted this is where my life would be.   I had a perfect family of 5.  I was ready to tackle that craziness every day and love every second of it.  After losing Nate, I was scared.  I was scared of what my road ahead looked like.   I am blessed by family, friends, and faith.   I listened to them and to God and followed a path of Hope.    I am still learning and being refined daily.  I am still growing stronger.  I still have days, and probably always will, where I’d rather crawl into pity and grief than tackle the day.   But most days, I can hold my head high and be proud of where we are and what we are doing. 

Greatness lies in each one of us. Experience it.  Believe it.  Pay it Forward.  Show it to others.

Go Out. Be Great.



A Christmas Card

The summer of 2012, I scheduled our photographer Stacy Hart, to take pictures of our family of 5, for that October.  I knew I wanted fall pictures for our annual Christmas card and I wanted to get on her schedule early.    I’d searched Pinterest and created a board for lots of cute pictures, poses, and styles to gain ideas for the perfect picture.   To be honest, I’d been planning that photo session for years even before having Kaylee.  It was the family photo session I had waited years for.   A session for a family of 5 that never happened.  And a Christmas card that was never sent.

In October 2012, Stacy still came to town as planned, as she had generously offered to host a mini-session fundraiser to support our playground mission at Mechanicsville Elementary.   We did have Stacy take pictures of Drew and Kaylee that day but we couldn’t bring ourselves to take a family picture at that session.   A family picture without Nate, to stand together with 2 children and not 3, was just unbearable and cruel to the heart.

I know the emotional value of a picture all to well.  And although, most of the time, looking at pictures of Nate is still so painful, I am so thankful that I have them.   I have professional pictures but I also have thousands of photos taken at home and around the house.   Each picture is so special to me.  So, as hard as it is to take a picture sometimes I still snap each and every one because I don’t want to forget a moment.  In January 2013, we celebrated Kaylee’s 2nd birthday.   We did manage an impromptu family picture after she blew out birthday candles.  In July, 2013 we found courage to stand for a scenic picture while hiking in Tennessee.    While vacationing in the Outer Banks in August, in the quiet with my sister in law, we again managed a quick family picture.  To date, I haven’t shared family pictures.   It’s hard to look at our pictures as I see, us as a family, a year later.  I can’t put into words what it feels like to see a picture without Nate.  There’s an empty space that should be filled.   I have to admit even when I take a picture of Drew and Kaylee together my heart skips a beat and my finger struggles to snap the shot.   It happens every single time.  My mind knows I need the pictures.  My heart wants Nate there too.  When I look at picture, I can usually spot right away where Nate would be in the picture.   I can picture him there with us.  His arm wrapped around Kaylee, standing tall beside Drew, or hugging Justin and I around the neck, as he pops up from the background.

In October, when Stacy was in town, for the 2nd Annual NCB fundraiser, she convinced us last minute to take a family picture.   It was getting dark, we hadn’t matched perfect outfits, and we didn’t have the perfect pose.  But what Stacy captured that Saturday evening will forever be held dear in my heart.  She captured a family that sticks together and loves.  A family that has dedicated themselves to let their lights shine, to love deeply, to seek joy, to keep pressing forward in life, and to live for Him.   A family that continues to be refined.  A family that hurts deeply but also finds hope in each day.  A family that still feels blessed in many ways.  A family that said we would Be Great For Nate and is living out that promise.

So this year, I still can’t send a Christmas card.  Some day I will but not yet.

But I will share our Christmas wishes, from our family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.   Thank you all for all of your love, support, friendships, and prayers in 2013.


Worn – Tenth Avenue North
I’m Tired
I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left
Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn


Fall is hard.  I’m coming to realize this, as I try to figure out my feeling of exhaustion and heaviness, now that the busy-ness of summer, and fundraising, is slowing down.  Fall is a beautiful changing of seasons but I’m having trouble getting past what it now reminds me of.   As, I drive through country roads, I see these winding streets draped with colorful leaves.   But what I immediately think of is deep grief and pain.  Last fall, I was driving down the same streets streaming tears.  Last fall, I was grieving.  This fall, a year later, I am grieving.  It’s been over a year since we lost Nate and now when I speak of the grief it becomes plural in years.  It becomes the reality of which fall was it that Nate was here.   Winter is coming.  The days are getting shorter.  It’s getting colder and we are outside less.  The holidays are coming.  Nate’s birthday is coming.   It’s happening and fall means it’s all closer than I want it to be.  That hurts.

This past week, I was talking to Justin about the house and how old each appliance was.   We moved into this house when I was pregnant with Nate.   So I’ve always been able to easily spout out how long we’ve lived here based on Nate’s age.  Well, last week, when I was confused on how long we’d been here I got mad at myself.  I had to stop to think about how old would Nate be this year?  I’m sorry, would? Not, how old will Nate be but how old would Nate be?  That hurts.  Nate would be 7 in December.   Then I immediately turned to grief of wondering what would Nate be like?   Would he be exceling in sports and at school?  Would he love school?   Would he be getting in trouble at school with daily reminders or be the star behavior student?  Would he have lost teeth?  Would he be reading chapter books and learning math?     How much would he have grown?  What size clothes would he be wearing?  Would he still love trucks or be growing into bigger boy things?  What would he have chosen for his Halloween costume?  Would he have sat with his friends on the Halloween hay ride?   Would he have led the pack?  Would he have taken Kaylee by the hand and led her to each door step to say trick or treat?    Would he be scouting the Christmas toy magazines circling toys?  Would he check the mailbox each day to see which new catalogue came?  Would he be sitting on a Sunday afternoon to watch “Lorax” with Kaylee and Drew or would he be outside on the trampoline?

Time.  It’s an interesting thing.   I don’t feel like time heals all things.  It just doesn’t.  But time does change it.   Some of the immediate pain and grief from last fall has changed to wonder this fall.   I want to just hug Nate.  I want to smell him.  I want to hear his laugh.  I want to run my fingers through his hair then kiss him on the forehead.   I don’t want to forget these things that I loved.    One of my biggest fears is forgetting these things.  So, last week, when it took me more than 1 second to figure out how old Nate would be… that’s scared me.  Kaylee is so much like Nate in so many ways.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s us just making it into more but then there are times I will hear her say something with a certain authoritative tone or give me a stink eye or crack up laughing and I will have to look twice.  It’s Nate exactly.   It makes me smile to see so much of him in her.  It helps keep the memories fresh.

My kids are my world.   All 3 of them.   They are my everything and I will always do everything I can to protect them, teach them, love them, encourage them, raise them, and just have fun with them.   As a mom, I want the best for them.   I’ve always parented pretty confidently.  But the walk of parenting children who’ve lost a sibling…  there’s no right way to do that.   I pray daily that we are making the right decisions.  I want Drew and Kaylee to grow into adults that know Nathan and remember what they can of him even if it’s through countless pictures.   I want them to feel confident talking about Nate.  And confident to tell us when they have worries, fears, and are sad.   There are days that I want to trap them in a box and never let them go.  I want to protect them from everything.    But I know that also isn’t possible.  I want to raise well rounded, easy going, capable children and if I trap them in a box they will be robbed of experiencing all this world has to offer them.   I want to always make sure they know how important they are to us and how loved they are by us.   I never want them to feel that Nate’s legacy overpowers who they are.  They are equally important in our eyes.   I never want them to look back at losing Nate as the day their mom changed forever or say “My mom was never the same after Nate died”.  Tears well up and the lump in my throat rises as I write that but that is one of my biggest fears.    As I wake up each day and make the choice for hope and happiness for myself, I also wake up making the choice for hope, life, love, and fun for my family.   I don’t want to be scared of this world. I don’t want my children to be scared of this world either.   I want to embrace it.  I want to live it.  I want to love it.  I want to cherish every day here until we all meet again in eternity.

All My Love,


Nathan Chris Baker Fun Day 2013

We at the NCB Foundation had a blast at the 2nd Annual Nathan Chris Baker Fun Day. The weather was perfect and everyone had a great time. As we looked out at the parking lot filled with bounce houses, vendors, police cars, fire equipment, and kids running around laughing and smiling – we were amazed at the support of our family, friends, and community. We also realized that all of the hard work that the Fun Day committee had put in over the last 4 months was coming to fruition.

As we look back on how Fun Day has grown – we are reminded of how far we have come. Only a handful of people know how this event came to be or why it is the way it is. Let me explain…………

In late September 2012, two kids – Justin and Ridgley approached their parents about doing something to remember Nathan and raise a bit of money to put towards “scholarships or something” as they told their parents. Justin and Ridgley are friends of our family and both knew Nathan. They are great and caring kids from great families and we are blessed to have these families in our lives.

Justin’s parents own Hoppers Kid Zone (a great local bounce house place) in Eldersburg. Ridgley’s parents are heavily involved in the community and her father was Nate’s baseball coach. Justin and Ridgley’s parents took the idea of a fundraiser and approached Katie and I. Things from September 2012 remain blurry to me but I don’t think we hesitated to say yes. By November 2012 the 1st Annual NCB Fun Day was off the ground. A simple idea from 2 kids took off and brought a community together on a cold and windy day in November. It was a huge success and one of the reasons we were able to give so much to Mechanicsville for the playground fund.

Immediately after our first Fun Day you could tell that everyone involved was excited and we talked about how we would make this event even better in the coming years. When we began to plan the 2nd Annual Fun Day we put together a group of local friends and families who we knew are just as committed to this foundation as we are. We also knew that this committee knew the roots of this event and recognized that this day took place because of the GREATNESS of some kids. We wanted these kids to know how great this idea was and we wanted them to embrace the idea of Go Out. Be Great.

A big part of what we want to do at GOBG is to inspire others to make a difference in the lives of those around them. This is especially true for kids. We want kids to know that no matter how small the act of kindness is……the impact is priceless. The impact has the ripple effect on those around them. A kind of pay it forward mentality.

We truly believe that one day everyone will need the help of another. Whether you believe it or not – you can’t plan life. Life is going to happen and some day – you will need someone else to provide you with something. A place to stay, a meal to eat, an ear to bend, a shoulder to steady you, a smile, maybe just something a simple as hope – a hope that things may be bad but they can get better. We want kids to know that they can be that force that helps to change others.

When our team began planning the 2nd Annual Fun Day we wanted to make sure that the kids were the focus. We realize that this is a major fundraiser for the foundation but it is also because of Nate that this day was born. It was because of other kids who set their sites on a GREAT idea and we always want to remember that and make this day about the kids.

As the team began to plan the events of the day we knew that the children of our team members would be heavily involved in our efforts. Even if it was just a late night planning meeting at Hoppers Kid Zone, the kids would more than likely be there bouncing as we strategized. We also knew that the kids would have their own stations at Fun Day. Some would sell bracelets or jewelry that they made, others helped with face-painting or tattoos, some helped us make signs, and volunteered for the dunk tank. Some of these kids knew Nate and others never met him. All of these kids poured their hearts into lending the talents that they have to give back to this event and foundation.

I want to share the story of one particular kid who approached a member of our Fun Day team with an idea he had to help. Chase is a 10 year old and creates some really great paracord bracelets which are extremely popular. Chase asked if he could make some bracelets and sell them at Fun Day. He wanted to sell his bracelets and make a donation to the NCB Foundation. During the weeks prior to Fun Day we were told that Chase was hard at work making his bracelets which he called Chaselets. We were told that he was super excited to be able to be part of Fun Day and we were excited to have him.

I walked around Fun Day checking on things when I located Chase’s table for his paracord bracelet – The sign read: Go Out. Be Great. – Chaselets – The sign had other information on it but I couldn’t get past the first two lines. This kids had taken an idea, invested in his idea, created his product, and was marketing it as well. I was really impressed.

I had the opportunity to meet Chase, his mother, and sister that day. What great people. As I spoke with Chase I could tell that being a part of this day meant a great deal to him. I could tell how proud he was to be a part of it. I could tell how proud his mother was of her son who had put his heart into this project and giving back.

Chase did very good at Fun Day and sold a lot of Chaselets. Chase donated $150.00 of what he made at Fun Day to the NCB Foundation. As we sat around totaling the events of the day we saw the $150 that this little guy donated – every member of our committee was just in awe. After meeting Chase and talking with him about Fun Day and what it meant – that $150 could have been $15 and would have still meant just as much but to a kid a $150 is a fortune.

At the end of the day we were told that Chase had faced his first organizational/business dilemma. Chase had every intention of giving his handmade sign to Katie and I after the event – something we could keep as a reminder of the day. When it all ended Chase was kind of attached to that sign and he and his mom talked about whether he wanted to keep it or give it away. Luckily someone from our Fun Day committee stepped in and suggested that Chase keep his sign and that Katie and I would want him to have it. They were right and Chase kept his sign. I am glad he did. I hope that sign serves as a reminder of the great thing that he did on September 29, 2013. I hope that sign encourages him to continue to Go Out and Be Great.

I am very proud of all of the kids that participated at Fun Day. If a group of kids can make a difference in the lives of others – think about what we as adults can accomplish. The power to help others is at our fingertips. It is the most rewarding thing you will ever experience. Greatness lies within each one of us – Experience it. Show it to others. Pay it forward. Go Out and Be Great.

We hope to see you all at the 3rd Annual Nathan Chris Baker Fun Day – 2014!       – Justin

Diva Half Marathon PART 2

A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they’re capable of understanding ~ Steve Prefontaine

This half marathon was one of the most emotion filled days. I prayed throughout, Friday and Saturday, that God and Nate would see me through this. I had little to no training because of recent injuries and a concussion but there was never a doubt in my mind that I would do this. At times, during the first half of the race, I actually thought” this is not me”. I know I couldn’t run this alone and it was as if I wasn’t in control of my own body during the race.  I had a great race. As I got close to the end of the course, extremely fatigued and sore, I realized I could not cross that finish line alone.  As I approached the finish line, I actually turned to run back. Everyone was running towards the finish and I was running away. I wanted Katie. I wanted to finish this race with her or behind her. I have said for the last year since we lost our Nate that I will have my daughter’s back no matter what. I will always have her back if she falls or if she needs me so I knew I needed to finish the race that way too.  As I ran behind her, and saw her grab those beautiful grandchildren of mine, push through the intense physical and raw emotions as she crossed that finish line, I knew that was what this day was for.  I then waited and ran back a mile or so to bring Jennie in, I had never seen her so emotion filled and full of raw love. The sense of accomplishment and the reason we all finished. It was never about time. It was about love! It was about Nate! To the moon and back!  - Nate’s Nanny

About 2 weeks before the race my Mom gave me a necklace that held the word “Hope” and a “N” charm. That necklace is what I clung to the entire race. I never thought I could do it. 13.1 miles. Are you kidding me? That’s about 13.1 more miles than I’ve ever ran before! As I was approaching the finish line, I remember how shocked I was that I’d held it together, emotionally, the entire race. Then as I was passing the photographer, right before the finish she said “Keep being great for that little boy”. In that moment it all hit me. I knew that I could finish. I knew that there was a purpose for the 13.1 miles we just completed. So many people stayed until we had all finished. People who I had never met, friends, and family cheering us on until the very end. My heart is full knowing that there is hope for my family’s future and that we finished this race for Nate. –  Nate’s Aunt Jennie

At the beginning of this journey we were asked to pick a word to live up to. I picked Perseverance. The definition of perseverance is “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” I have thought about this word a lot the last few months, and what it means to me. When I began this challenge I asked that a few friends of mine embrace this contest with me. It was a huge hurdle for all of us, and we were scared, but my heart was full when they said yes. As months of training went by, I received emails and calls encouraging me. Some of us would get together to run from time to time and challenge each other to be better. My friends would always contact me and tell me how Nate motivated them or spoke to them while they were running. Nate had brought us together for this and we would not give up. As the half marathon approached, I kept thinking about how I would feel that morning seeing all of my family and friends together. I kept thinking of Nate and how if it wasn’t for him I may never have had this experience, and I might never have known what I am capable of. The first few miles of the half marathon course were crowded, and a few of my friends and I were running close to each other. I enjoyed this time with them. We were not talking, but we would glance over while running and we knew what each other was thinking. “This is for NATE.” After about four miles, the course opened up and everyone went their own pace. We all seemed to get lost in the experience. Throughout the course, I just kept thinking of them, and our friendships. Many of them are from different chapters of my life. These people that were enduring this hardship with me that day have been the same people that have been there for me since the beginning. They have encouraged me through email, listened to me fall apart, and have cried with me. They have celebrated and rallied for the Nathan Chris Baker Foundation. These people have contributed and collected Dannon codes and they helped build that playground. These people are my lifelong friends. About halfway through the course I was feeling tired and my right foot was beginning to get really sore. I knew a blister was forming, but Nate must have known that I needed a reminder of my word for the year, “Perseverance.” As I came around the corner I saw a “Go Out Be Great for Nate” shirt. It was our dear friend and his children cheering us on. I almost cried when I saw him, but they were clapping and he stuck out his hand. I realized that the song “Roar” had come on my music player and the words “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire. ‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR” spoke to me over and over. I picked up my pace and I slapped his hand while running by. I did not give my foot another thought. I Persevered, I ROARED. I didn’t think after that, I just pushed every thought of pain aside. There was never a notion of giving up, and for all you girls that remember miles 9 through 11, you know that there were many opportunities to give up, many hills that I could have stopped, but I didn’t because “we are champions .” Coming towards the finish line I could see my family, but especially my daughter jumping and clapping, while screaming “Go Mommy!” My heart melted, but I just dug deep and crossed that finish line. I made my way through the photo area and barely stopped to grab my medal. I definitely needed a few minutes to regroup and compose myself. I stood there and watched the people cross and I got teary eyed while thinking, “I did it.” Many people have told me that the picture of me coming toward the finish line made me look so focused. I was focused! I was focused on doing this for Nate. I was determined to do my best for Nate and nothing was going to stop me! I was determined to show my kids that their mommy was keeping her promise to persevere. When I finally made my way back to the group I saw those same people, the people that are always there. My rocks: my family and my friends. I cried as I hugged each one of them. I kept thinking, “We did it! We did it for Nate and we did it for each other.” We proved to ourselves and to our kids that we can do anything…and with every new challenge we will be steadfastness, despite difficulty or delay, and we will achieve success! Nate, we will PERSEVERE.~ Nate’s Aunt Jackie

It was such an honor to train for and run this race with family and friends. Over this past year I’ve witnessed my extended family experience every parents worst nightmare. As a new mom to a spirited little boy it breaks my heart for them. But when I read Katie’s words that she writes from her heart, I am amazed by her strength and her faith, and I am inspired. The Bakers define their foundations slogan. They are living it each day with everything they have accomplished in such a short time in Nate’s memory. DIVA was the most difficult 13.1 miles I have ever run. It was extremely hilly and a difficult course and as an inaugural race there were some pretty big hiccups. But it was worth all of it to be out on a course where each turn I saw a runner wearing a Go Out. Be Great shirt or cheering us on in a shirt. And after the race hearing stories of greatness. One of the girls offered up her compression sleeve along the course to a stranger. One of my friends said that she was struggling at the end and two of our teammates that she had never met saw her and said “you are going to finish with us” and they ran with her the rest of the way. It seemed that every time any doubt creeped in my head I would see a shirt and I would dig deeper. It was truly a reminder of why we were there, to show support for a cause and a family that did not give up, but instead they inspire us all to Go Out. Be Great. – Mary Dowdy

When Katie mentioned the Diva half to me and asked if I was interested in running, I knew immediately that the answer was yes. Not running was not even an option! I didn’t say yes because I love to run, or because I love the challenge, or even because I know how healing running can be. I said yes because I wanted to support Katie and her family. I wanted to encourage their mission. I wanted to go out, and be great for them…and Nate. More importantly, I wanted others to see the Baker family’s tremendous faith in Christ. The Bakers made a choice to take a tragedy and turn it into a blessing for others. I am sure many hearts have been softened, changed, and turned back to the Lord through the actions of this family. Training for the13.1 mile race was not new to me but very different. It helped me grow closer to some people and even make a new friend or two. I think Katie helped and allowed us all to grieve with her, which was quite unselfish. Running the 13.1 hilly, slippery, gravel, dirt road, and did I mention hilly course, with this amazing group of ladies was simply an honor. – Susan Young

I’ve known the Baker family going on 3 years now. I was blessed to find Katie in my search of daycare providers. She has been nothing but loving and caring to my daughter during her days with her. It’s also something to find a fantastic parental resource as we have with Katie. Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare, so when I got the news of Nate’s passing, I knew I would do whatever I could to support her and her family. I’ve bought raffle tickets, attended the Fun Day, bought items from the holiday open house, bought Danimals, and spent a few hours entering long weird numbers into Excel for the Mechanicsville PTA in their hunt for a new playground. When Katie brought up the idea of running a half marathon I was all for it. I’ve been running for a few years now, doing nothing more than 5k’s and running as part of a relay team for the Baltimore Marathon. I’ve always wanted to do a half but never thought I had it in me. I’ve never been one to complete projects. I’m quick to make an excuse and give up. So, I started training and wearing my GOBG shirt on my runs with the goal of completing this half for myself and for the Bakers. Wearing my GOBG shirt is just another way I can support Katie and her family. If I can get one person to see my shirt each week on my run, that’s one more person to learn about Nate and what this amazing family is doing in his memory. I found myself extremely emotional thinking about this amazing group of women who were pushing past their boundaries preparing to run this race. The day of the race finally came and as we all know, it did not go as planned. We were all late; I even missed the start. But as soon as I was on that “road” running, I felt like I was being carried….carried by this group, this family, carried by Nate. I’ve never felt so good or conquered “rolling hills” as I did that day. Every time I would run by someone wearing a GOBG shirt I would give a wave or smile of encouragement. Most of us have never even met before, but we were all there together for the same reason…to be great. I look forward to the next (preferably a paved, flat) one!!! – Kim Drake

In January, I signed up to run the Diva half. I wanted to support my friends even though running wasn’t really my thing. At that point, 1 mile was a challenge and I was in physical therapy for my knees so 13 Miles seemed like a bit of a stretch!  Throughout months of training, I had a lot of knee pain and at some points wanted to give up. I kept thinking about what Justin and Katie and their families have gone through and no amount of my physical pain could ever even compare.  Being at the run with so many wonderful people who were (or seemed) as nervous as I was made me so proud to be on Nate’s team! While I was running through the beautiful (and hilly) country, I found myself fighting tears as I thought about the impact that Nate and his amazing family are making. Thank you for continuing to share your hearts and allowing me to be a part of this journey. God has always been there and continues to carry us when we feel like we just can’t take one more step.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

– Mindy Fredenberger


When I was first asked to run a half marathon, with my friend Jenn, I didn’t even hesitate on saying YES. I wanted to encourage her along the way but, also, it had always been a bucket list item for me.  Running distance was something I always wanted to do but never had the courage to fight for.  In years past, I always viewed it as something I would sign up for with great intentions but knew even before starting, I probably wouldn’t follow through.  But something was different this time – I didn’t question it. I just said yes. I knew I needed to challenge myself, I needed the accomplishment of finishing something, a goal, an achievement to be proud of. Right away, I thought it would be fun and encouraging to get a few girls on board to support and run with me but never did I imagine the support, love, and number of Divas that would decide to register and Be Great. For Nate.  On race day, we had around 50 ladies that ran either the Diva Half Marathon or the 5K.   About a month before the race, I miss-stepped on the stairs and found myself in a brace for a sprained ankle. Just 2 days prior to spraining my ankle, I had run a very confident 10 mile training run with a few of the girls running the half marathon for Go Out Be Great and was really entering the last month of Diva training on a runners high.  I felt confident after that 10 mile run.  I even thought I may be able to beat the goal time I had set for myself in the very beginning of training.  After the sprain, I stopped training due to pain and at some point decided to just rest the ankle until race day so that I didn’t hurt it any worse. I had a few friends tell me not to push my ankle, don’t run on an injury, you’ve already done such an amazing thing by organizing all these women to run for Nate.  But quitting was not an option. I knew I was strong and I knew that with Nate on my side I would finish this race no matter the pain it caused. So, as September 14th approached, I took my Motrin and headed out to race. I thought I’d be nervous. I thought I’d be overwhelmed with emotions.  Overwhelmed with friends and family and support and grief and pride. Funny thing, I was just full of peace.  I was able to look around before the race, at the start of the race, during, and after and just take it all in. Watching everyone that came together for us in amazement of love and greatness.  I don’t have words to describe the traffic, the delayed start, the hills, the gravel roads, and the strength from inside it took to get through this 13.1 mile race.  I can’t begin to pretend this race was easy for me, I wasn’t carried and I had to really dig deep. I ran on an injured ankle and in pain. I ran 13.1 miles and certainly felt my loss of 4 weeks training. Any long distance runner will tell you that loss of training isn’t easy. I remember at around mile 9 as I pushed up yet another hill, with tears in my eyes, I looked to the sky and prayed. I prayed for all the ladies that have supported me and ran with me. I prayed to Nate and told him of all my love for him. And I prayed that God would give me that courage and strength to overcome the pain and finish what I’d started. As I ran toward the finish I saw my mom waiting for me.  I grabbed her hand and raised it overhead – we did it!  Then as I turned the last corner of the run and saw my family standing there, with smiles on their faces as they cheered, I was rushed with emotion. Everything became a blur of what was going on around me but in that moment I grabbed Kaylee and held her while kissing Drew’s hand, and ran through that finish line for Nate, with them. That may of been the hardest steps I took of the entire race but it didn’t matter how physically exhausted my body was, in the moment, the only thing that made sense was to have my children with me. As I look at the picture now, my eyes fill with tears. I love my children with every ounce of my being and will always give them every ounce of what I have left to give!  ~  I am honored to run this race with every one of the girls that ran!  I had my friend, Amy, by my side till the very end pushing me through.  I am honored to have crossed the finish line with my mother, running in behind me, supporting me like she always has. I am honored to have finished this race with the support of Justin, the kids, my family, friends, and runners that I now consider friends. I was honored to complete this race with Drew, Kaylee, and Nate at my side. I know Nate saw me through. He was cheering as he ran with me through that finish line and I know he’s cheering for us every day. It became more than just a race. It became a journey for Nate. We all used the day in a different way but I think in the end we all came out stronger. In the end, I think we all knew, there was a beautiful boy pulling us through. We will keep being GREAT for you Nate. – All my love, Katie

Diva Half Marathon Part 1

“You don’t have to be GREAT to start but you have to start to be GREAT”~ Zig Ziglar

I had my little baby boy in mid-November 2012 and so by January I was itching to get back in shape. I knew I was going to get back into CrossFit, but I thought that registering for a half marathon would double my training and force me to train even on the days I wanted to talk myself out of it. So I searched for a half that would give me enough time to train and would be a great adventure to do with a friend or two. When someone told me about the Diva half in September that was to be held in DC WINE country, I couldn’t turn it down. They had me at, “wine country”. I just imagined crossing that finish line and relaxing on a terrace in a vineyard with a glass of chardonnay. It sounded like the perfect way to celebrate 13.1!!  So that was it. I signed up as soon as the registration opened and began counting down the weeks. In the beginning this was really about my determination to get back in shape and to give me the energy to be a stay-at-home-momma to two little ones. But, before the training even began, the Go Out Be Great team was formed and it became so much more for me. As the months unfolded, I watched as women posted proudly their training successes, their fears, their motivation, their uplifting running soundtracks  and it sort of unfolded into this amazing sisterhood of strong women; women who love and support each other and who were coming together all for Nate and Katie and Justin and the whole Baker family. I watched as the group got larger and larger and people started training harder and harder than ever before. I remember setting out to do one of my first long(er) runs in my training and turning my phone to my favorite Pandora station. The first song that popped up is one of my new faves, “Called Me Higher”. Here are some of the lyrics:
I could just sit
I could just sit and wait for all Your goodness
Hope to feel Your presence
And I could just stay
I could just stay right where I am hope to feel You
Hope to feel something again
And I could hold on
I could hold on to who I am and never let You change me from the inside
And I could be safe
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls down
But You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I will go where you will lead me Lord
You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I will go where you lead me Lord
Where you lead me
Where you lead me Lord
As I was listening to this song, my steps began to get a little lighter, the running- easier. I remember running and feeling tears begin to well up. Wow, how powerful are these words for so many women in this group who are running for GOBG. We could all just “sit here and HOPE to feel His presence” and “HOPE to feel something again”…OR, we could get up and go <literally> running into the world with GREATness and show His love and His strength. Whether we knew Nate personally or not, we have been spiritually moved by his legacy. You know that feeling in your heart that aches so badly because you want to do something good and loving? That’s your spirit. And as I look at Katie and Justin who so clearly have been called higher and deeper and who work daily to let those walls down…How many of us are feeling their ripples of Greatness? How many of us will go running to where the Lord is leading them?  I can’t think of one person who signed up with the group to just run. Nope. We were all called higher for this one, friends. I am sure of it. Thank you, my sweet Nate.  To many more wall crushing moments…   ~ Stacy Hart

Running in any type of race was not on my radar a year ago.  A lot of things changed for me this past year, this being one simple thing.  When Katie set out to tackle her first half marathon, I knew that it was something that I needed to do as well.  The months of training couldn’t have prepared me for the challenges of race day, but knowing that we were all there in support of Go Out. Be Great., rallying together for our love of Nate was an experience that is forever etched in my heart.  This life is a journey, with so many difficulties that we cannot foresee, but I am reminded that as long as our hope is in Christ, He will renew our strength, we will soar on wings like eagles; run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:31) Thank you, Katie, for letting me walk this path along side of you and your sweet family!  13.1, what an accomplishment we could all share together!!  Go Out. Be Great. – Naomi Johnson

If it wasn’t for the pain in my knees and back right now then I still wouldn’t believe that I actually ran 13.1 miles today. Yesterday I would’ve told you that there was no way that I was ready. I started the journey to do this race because it is what the group wanted to do to honor Nate and if it was for Nate then I was all in, no matter what. I think to understand how much my love for Nate influenced me to agree to this, you first have to understand my hate for running. I have never been one to enjoy running. In fact one of my worst memories from childhood was of me playing soccer, in which I was terrible at because I wasn’t fast enough and so I would run after the ball down the field and by the time I got there I was too late and I’d be turning around to chase it back the other way. I remember not understanding the point of a game where all you did was run and crying before every practice. In middle school I liked all the physical fitness tests except the 1 mile run and dreaded it every year, and in high school the only time I ran was because I loved field hockey and had to do so. When I didn’t make the field hockey team my junior year someone told me that if I took cross country then I would have a better shot at making the team the next year and so I, despite my hate, went to join the cross country team….for a day. Then I quickly remembered how much I hated running and decided that I didn’t like field hockey enough for that nonsense. And I didn’t run again. So that’s where I was when it was decided that we were going to run a half marathon for Nate, and my mind said “no way”, but my heart said “yes you will”. So I convinced myself that I had many months to train and so I would train hard and I would feel confident come race day because I would prove to myself by that time that I could run far and race day would be a rerun or sorts.….wrong! As it turns out, I would train a bit, but as I moved states, houses, and a new job in the last few months time was never of the essence and so flash forward and I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t trained the way I had hoped. So I started getting dressed this morning nervous and scared, but determined to finish even if I had to crawl. But something happened today as we all lined up at the start line and a special fellow runner grabbed my hand and pulled me up to start with them, I felt a strange sense of confidence that I could do this 13 miles and that there was no other option but to push through the pain for that little boy that I think about every single day, that the physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional pain we’ve had this past year and nothing was going stop me from being great for him today. So as the race began I felt strong and empowered with determination for my nephew and as it went on and I got tired and worn I held on to all the little things that made this day so special. The fact that women that I love and respect were all joining together from all different places because of our love for Nathan. The fact that the weather was perfect for a run, sunny but a nice breeze blowing through made it feel like Nathan was shining down over us. The fact that the people who came out to cheer often had their little kids outside playing and riding bikes and our own kids playing in the dirt waiting for us to come across the finish, made me think how the race alone was getting kids outside to play like Nate loved to do. The fact that it was in the country and I’d see a tractor every mile or two and I’d suddenly fill with love and energy thinking of Nathan and his love for every type of tractor he ever saw. Nathan today was for you, every time I felt like stopping, every time my feet said I couldn’t go any faster, I said your name to myself and gained the strength to keep pushing through. I love you Nathan, I can’t wait to see your sweet face again, but until then we will continue to Go Out, to tell the world all about you and to Be Great for you Nate! <3 – Nate’s Aunt Jenelle

Eight years ago I ran my first marathon and vowed that it would also be my last. I’m not a runner. For me, running is difficult, uncomfortable and, to be 100% honest, boring. But when Katie asked me in January if I would run a ½ marathon in honor of Nate, “Yes” came out so effortlessly. At that moment, I knew that the pain I would feel running this race was nominal compared to the pain that Katie, Justin, and their family and friends feel everyday for the loss of Nate. Life events slowed my training program and race day approached fast. Physically, I did not feel prepared but as all the runners were lining up at the start line, I had a sense of peace. I was surrounded by so many women who came out to be GREAT for Nate! Before I knew it, the clock started and we were off. I usually run with music and an app that tracks my mileage and pace, its all a ruse to keep my mind occupied. But that day, these distractions were not needed. The day was peaceful. 13.1 miles of putting one foot in front of the other as I admired the countryside and reminisced on our special angel. Nate’s presence was strong and the thought of his smiling face watching over us got me to the finish line that day. It was a Great way for us to GO OUT and BE GREAT for Nate! Love and miss you buddy! Anna, Nate’s Aunt Dee

Last year when I was asked if I would run in a half marathon, I thought “there is no way I can run that far!”  Then I heard the rest of the question…will you run in a half marathon in honor of Nate?  With no doubts or reservations I replied “yes I will.”  I remember thinking to myself   “I don’t know how I’ll run 13.1 mile but I will do what I need to do to make it happen.”  So I got down to figuring out how…read articles, got advice from others, purchased some comfy clothes, and my first “real” pair of running shoes.  I hated the color, but it was the pair the man said would be my best fit for the type of runner I was, so I got them anyways.  I know it sounds funny, but only out of love for Nate did I buy those shoes.  Shoes that now have a very sentimental meaning to me.  Shoes that got me across that finish line….for Nate! I started a running journal.  In it I logged my mileage and time of every run during my training.  This kept me motivated to do better each time.  I got my iPod set with songs that kept me going.  Some were the typical  upbeat workout songs and others were tear jerkers.  My husband once asked “how can you listen to those and not fall asleep running?!” I could listen to those songs because they inspired me in a different way.  Some made me think of Nate.  Some made me think of Justin and Katie and what this past year has brought to them.  It fueled me to make sure I got through the 13.1 miles….to do it for them.  Never at any time in my training did I not have Nate for inspiration.  Yes, my family and friends helped, but that little boy that I love like one of my own was beside me every time I ran.  Some runs were better than others and on the not so good runs I know I had his help. The days leading up to the DIVA run were emotional.  I just kept thinking I wish my friends had their son and that this run was just any ordinary run.  Nate was anything but ordinary and this run was anything but ordinary.  It was for him. To honor this boy that was so full of love, life, and joy. The morning of the race I put all my GOBG gear on and attached a picture of Nate to my bib.  It made me feel like he was there with me.  I needed all the inspiration I could get for that day.  I couldn’t believe this day was finally here. As we set up at the starting line I fought back tears as I heard a girl behind me say    “I love their shirts…Go Out. Be Great. That is so cool!”  I was so proud to have that shirt on at that very moment. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful country side to run in.  There were some killer hills and a little more gravel roads than I had anticipated, but I kept trucking through.  Around mile 11 after finishing up with one of the biggest hills on the course, I was needing some help getting those last 2.10 miles done.  I rubbed that picture of Nate on my bib and I said “Okay Nate, help me out, run these last few miles with me!”  I smiled at that moment because I know he was.  He ran with all of us that day. This was one of the most inspiring events I’ve ever been a part of.  It was so GREAT to run with all these women .  Women that came with one goal: to honor Nate. It was an experience I would gladly do over again.  I will do my best every day to help honor this boy…to keep his memory alive for the friends that we love so dearly.  So with a heart full of love, I’m thankful for having been a part of this day and I thank you Justin and Katie for the love we were able to share with Nate. – Nate’s Aunt Crystal

Nine months can mark significant change in a woman’s life. Any mother out there can tell you a story or two about the havoc nine months can wreak on a girl’s body, whether actual child birth was involved or not. Unfortunately, after two 9-month sentences my body showed its story, no story telling necessary. Nine months ago marks another significant change in my life. I made a New Year’s resolution. Like most resolutions, I hoped I’d be able to dump this one in a few weeks. Then one morning, in a particularly caffeine-fueled Facebook message replete with the pre-dawn spontaneity of a mother whose children are still sleeping soundly, I asked my friend Katie if she wanted to sign up for a half marathon. I had heard there was wine involved. In a few hours, Katie responded that yes, she would do it. By that time, my caffeine-fueled optimism was a distant, fuzzy memory. I was scared out my mind by the commitment I just made. Because Katie was someone I wouldn’t dream of letting down. Katie provided daycare for my daughter for the first four years of her life. My little girl’s start in life was marked by the love that was showered upon her by Ms. Katie and those fabulous Baker boys. Katie’s strength in the face of unspeakable grief made me want to be strong. And so with that commitment, the next nine months began. Like the emotional roller coaster of my pregnancies, my training led me to experience denial of the looming challenge, excitement at what meeting that challenge might bring, and eventually, practical preparations for the big day. My training began in earnest in the “last trimester.” While that training may have been “earnest,” “pretty” it was not. I spent my summer mornings waking up extra early so no one in my neighborhood would see me run. I jiggle when I run. I sweat, too. There are people who experience a glow when they run. I am not one of them. I am embarrassed to say that the only sports injury I experienced in my entire life was the result of a sports bra malfunction early this summer. But still, I kept training. My mileage increased, and each week brought with it pride at reaching a new milestone and terror at having to surpass it in another week. I have tried and failed many times in my life to change my body, but this time I drew strength from the legacy of a very dear little boy. It was with Nate in mind that I laced up my sneakers four and five times a week to do something I never thought possible. Through this experience I learned that my body was never my enemy, it was always my mind. And when my mind was focused on the goal of being GREAT, my body just followed right in line. When I crossed that finish line last week, I still was not a pretty runner. Upon seeing a friend at the finish line cheering me on, I opened my mouth to shout a cheer, but I think a sob accidentally came out. No matter, because aside from the two days of my life when I gave birth, that day was the only other day I can say I was proud of what my body could do; the distance of it. I have to admit I was incredibly disappointed with my time for that race. I trained better and I know I can do better. So I’m signing up for another half-marathon in the spring because now I have something to prove. For me, Going Out and Being Great is more of a journey than a destination. But I will do this. I will do it for the love that my family and I have for Nate. – Jennifer Janowich

There are so many great stories from our Diva Half Marathon that I have split this blog into two posts!  Please stay tuned next week for part 2 and to read my thoughts on the day!  xoxo, Katie


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.