“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in” Haruki Murakami

I am grieving the loss of my son. My life will never be the same. I’m not sure my “storm” will ever be over. I knew this storm would be hard but what I didn’t realize is that I would at times feel so lost in this storm. Yes, I lost a piece of me with Nate’s passing. He was our son, a living piece of us here on earth so yes I did lose a piece of myself as well. But I feel like I’ve lost more than that. I feel like I’ve lost what made me complete. Had I made the mistake of letting my life revolve around my children? I don’t believe that could be possible. That was my God given role. But I found my security and worthiness in my children and parenting and my family. I was one of the stay at home momma’s that did it all. I was so happy when we had our 3rd baby Kaylee Grace. Our family was complete. I’d always wanted three children (and sometimes more) and I knew I wanted to be a MOM. It was my goal from the time I was a little girl. I was born to take care of children and never in my life have I ever doubted that. I liked and actually thrived in that chaotic feeling running on and off a baseball field or wrestling mat or to the bus stop and back with my head spinning and 3 kids in tow. There may have been days I felt like I was losing it and maybe even complained about the busy life we lived but I’m pretty sure I still had it all in control. We hustled to and from family visits, birthday parties, sports, doctor appointments, preschool, playgroups, grocery stores, libraries, and school. With Justin’s rotating work schedule I was always prepared to tackle each day on my own if needed. It was stressful at times but at the end of the day when I tucked three babies into bed and kissed them each good night, it was then that my day always felt worth it. None of the craziness mattered because I had 3 blessings that filled my heart with more love than I’d every imagined.

There are many times now I just feel lost when I’m in those situations I used to stand proud, calm, and in control. It’s those moments I’ve spoken about before where I can almost stand outside my body and see the world moving around me while I stand still. I stood, last weekend, as I watched the cousins on my side of the family run crazily around my sister’s living room. I watched my niece Annalise open her 1st birthday present from us and all I could think was of how Nate would be sitting as close as he could get helping her open the gift. Anxiety flared and I no longer felt in control. I wished I could hear Nate and Hannah playing, I wished I’d seen Nate chasing Kaylee around monitoring what she was doing, I wished he’d gotten to know Annalise and his baby cousin Josiah better. And I wished Drew wasn’t crying about missing his brother. I wish that little booger had been there in that happy chaos and made me smile in it. There are moments where Nate is so present that I can hear and almost feel him and there are moments where there is an obvious absence in the room that just sinks my soul. That afternoon I felt that absence so clearly. Nate loved that “happy chaos”, in fact, he thrived in it. He likely would’ve been the center of that chaos. I felt lost and out of control. I missed Nate. I suddenly wasn’t sure how to be the Aunt my nieces and nephews have always known. My storm isn’t over and I’m not the same. How do I evolve into the Aunt they remember that played and smiled and chased them and loved them. I still love them, all of them, but there’s a piece of my heart missing that almost feels incapable of growing bigger.

As we left for dinner, I was on the brink of a meltdown. I sat in my car, quietly with Drew and Kaylee, and prayed. I remembered my word of the year and of what I have to continually remind myself to do. Surrender. I prayed that I could surrender all the pain and fear. I prayed that I could surrender the feeling that I’ve lost myself and let God lead me on how to find the new me. I prayed that God would hold me as I tried to enjoy the rest of the evening at dinner and out for ice cream. And I pray still that God will help me find myself in all of this.

Yesterday while Drew was getting ready for school I was listening to he and Kaylee, in his room, while I was getting ready in my room. They were chuckling and Kaylee was getting into Drew’s things as he was trying to get dressed. I could hear Drew correcting her in his polite little voice the way he does and telling her what to touch and not to touch. In that moment, I could so clearly hear Nate then correcting Drew about not correcting Kaylee. This was typical Nate fashion, always in the know, and in the middle of whatever may be going on. I could hear him so clearly bossing Drew saying in that drawn out tone as he made his point “Dreeeeew, don’t boss Kaylee around that’s not your job.” It made my eyes tear up but also made me smile because sometimes his voice is just so clear to me. In that moment, he was so present in this house.

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

This storm will forever affect me, my family, my friends, and all of you who continue to support and pray for us. It may come and go in waves and I don’t think I will ever be able to predict the hard days. Some days feel like a blur. I haven’t read a single grief book. I don’t know that I believe what they may tell me. I’m not sure a book can predict this storm I’m in because every walk in grief must be different. I’ve depended on God, faith, family, and friends. I haven’t accepted advice from those who tell me how to grieve. I’ve found comfort in those that let me grieve as I feel led to do and that don’t pressure me to feel differently than I do. Some days are a harsh reality of the storm we face each day. I still have to force myself each day, each bad moment, to make a choice to go on and be great and to trust and surrender to God. The days haven’t gotten easier. I’m still in a fog just trying to take in every moment with Drew and Kaylee so I don’t miss a single moment. I know that I am not the same person I was a year ago. I’ve already changed through this storm. My relationships have changed and are evolving and taking work on my part. My relationship with God has changed too. I think through this storm I have grown so much closer to God in a way that’s indescribable and in a way that I long to learn more. For I know, that He holds my Nate in His arms, and He loves him so much!!!

One thing is sure, this storm may affect us forever here on Earth, but I see sunshine ahead in Eternity.

All My Love,



 I’ve had trouble writing lately. I just haven’t felt like sitting down and putting pen to paper or in my case fingers to keyboard! I haven’t felt the urge and I have felt emotionally incapable of writing. I honestly find writing and reading the supportive comments from everyone so comforting and as much as I wanted to force myself to write in the last month, I just haven’t been able to. Then I thought about this song, “Called Me Higher” by All Sons and Daughters, and as I reflected on last few weeks and I knew that I needed to write.
Called Me Higher
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 and 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
And I will be Yours
I will be Yours for all my life
So let Your mercy light the path before me
Today, as I was cleaning, I happened to look up and see a magnet Nate made last year at vacation bible school hanging on the side of the fridge. It was a painted clothes pin holding a bible verse. The verse on the notecard was written as a preschool shortened verse which reads, “ Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 NLT). Then only a few minutes later I opened my You Version application as I do most days to read the verse of the day to see, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” (1 Peter 3:15 NLT). I know that when I write I share my heartache but I also want to share my strength and my hope that in moments I know can only come from God.
Following the holidays the last few months have been tough. Everyone warned us of how hard the holidays would be but the truth is that, emotionally, we could prepare ourselves for the holidays and Nate’s birthday. I expected the holidays to be harder but we were so emotionally prepared that we got through them with love, prayer, family, and friends. What we can’t prepare ourselves for are the unexpected moments. Those unexpected moments are the ones that seem to hit the hardest and are the times where I sit with tears rolling down my cheek. Admittedly, these are private moments for me. My closest family and friends will tell you that I am the girl that will say “I’m fine” even when every ounce of me knows that I am not. Lately, I’ve had what I can only explain as something similar to an outer body experience. I can be having a nice evening out with my family and friends and will have a moment that I am reminded of Nate. The guilt hits me that I’m having a nice time and I immediately find myself literally staring at myself as the world moves on around me. I’m stuck, paralyzed, and can’t move or even think as I wonder how my life got here and how my life will go on without Nate. In those moments, I have to force myself out of it. I have that choice to wake myself up and push forward. I have to keep going for Drew and Kaylee. I have to let the Lord lead me, surrender my pain, and let his light lead the way.
My heartbreak moments come unexpectedly. I have these moments where I turn a corner and swear I can hear Nate playing in the background or I’ll be singing in the car with Drew and Kaylee and there are times I swear I hear Nate’s little voice singing and giggling too. I turn down the radio in time to turn and look but only to realize he isn’t there. Two weeks ago, I was I going through hand me downs for Kaylee and all I could think of was Nate helping me sort hand me downs, making a huge mess, and saying to every single shirt, “Look this is pretty mom, we’ll like this one”. Then as I sorted through the clothes that are too small in her closet and see the dress she wore to his preschool graduation I find a piece of my heart in pain. The moments hit me constantly on any given day. These are my moments, our family memories, the ones that no one could of prepared us for. The moment a friend or a cousin loses a tooth and I’m immediately reminded of how Nate didn’t get to lose his first tooth. I have to turn and tell me myself to pull it together because I want to be happy and excited for the other children too. That’s who I am. I was sorting through pictures last week to find some from the first day of school that I need to send out. As I looked at pictures, of my sweet boy, and his smile, so proud, as he was getting ready for school, tears hit the table in front of me uncontrollably. Last weekend, we were fixing Drew’s plate of spaghetti with noodles on one side and sauce on the other and as we sat it on the table he says, “No, mom, I like mine mixed together, Nate liked his separate” and in that moment my heart breaks because it’s just not fair. It’s really just not fair at all. He is in my every thought and my every moment. He is my baby boy. I will grieve in my own way. There are no books that tell you how to do this. There is no helpful advice that tells me how to do this. There is no amount of tears or smiles that will ever make this okay. That’s when I have to let God lead me. I have to surrender. I can’t do this on my own. I’m not doing this on my own.
Last week, I made a 2 hour drive to see a good friend. I started my morning excited about getting out of the house for the day and eager to catch up with my friend! As I started driving in the peace of my car where my mind can wander I started to have flashbacks, full anxiety, and questions. Just as I thought I’d be entering a full panic attack my shuffle playlist hit “Never Let Go” by David Crowder Band. When disaster came, He never let go. In that moment I prayed. I prayed and I reminded myself to surrender it all. I was in awe, that God knew exactly what song to put in my playlist at that moment. As I continued on my drive I found myself deeply in thought as I listened to worship music. I had a moment of peace. The truth is, I want to know what happened to Nate and I want to know why it happened to us. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve pleaded for answers or I’ve said “I won’t ever know this side of heaven why this happened the way it did”. But, Friday morning as I drove out over the Bay Bridge, I realized that you know what… I don’t think I’ll know the answer to what happened on the other side of heaven either. I believe heaven is a happy place with no worry and no fear. I think we will walk through Heaven’s Gate and the anxiety of what happened will not be given another thought. In some way, that brought me peace. To my normal OCD self I would think that idea would actually bring me more anxiety but in a small way I’m at peace with that. I’m at peace with knowing that one day this question won’t need to be answered and I can spend eternity in Heaven, happy and with no fear. As I told my friend this story, mainly because as a strong sister in Christ, I wanted her thoughts on this, she looked at me as her eyes filled with tears and said “Katie, you know what that is, that’s faith”. It is faith. It can’t be explained. It’s just what I believe.
I will be missing a piece of my heart every single day of this life. I will always be slightly broken. But the hope is that joy comes in the morning. “But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.” (Psalms 59:16 NLT) I have bad days, but each night I tell myself, tomorrow is what I choose it to be. I can wake up and find joy in the morning. I will push myself and I will not live this life sad. I will be GREAT for NATE. And I will be GREAT for GOD.
Best Brothers and Best Friends
Helping Mommy fold clothes for Kaylee
Nate and Kaylee before preschool graduation
1st day of school
A foundation update: We are still in the non-profit process and working through the endless paperwork process. We are also in the trademark process for Go Out. Be Great. We are hopeful to get the non-profit status as we are eager to start fundraising again for future projects! Keep checking back!
A Playground Update for Mechanicsville: Now that we are 99.99% sure we have won Rally for Recess (official notice should come at the end of the month), we have gotten notice that the school is moving forward with the both the Kindergarten playground and the BIGGER than originally planned 1st – 5th playground. The school is currently working on logistics of price quotes & approvals, and plan to order equipment by the end of March. The production of equipment takes a few months so the day school lets out for summer the demolition will begin and the area will be prepped for the new playgrounds!!! We should see new playgrounds being installed in July. We can’t wait to see this project become reality! We will continue to keep you all posted.
As always, thank you for your support, thoughts, prayers, love, support, and friendships.
All My Love, Katie


If tomorrow isn’t promised… What would you do with today?

I heard that saying at church this past weekend and it stuck with me. I just kept thinking of Nate and how quickly life can change. Tomorrow is not promised. Sunday, I attended service at Lifepoint Church and listened to a sermon titled “One Word”. If you would like to listen – here is the link. . It affected me profoundly. I will fully admit I think it was the first worship and sermon that I have listened too since Nate’s death that I really felt fully and deeply connected. I felt like I could hear God speaking to me. I did not set a New Years Resolution this year and really can’t think of many years that I have. I know that resolutions don’t work for me. I don’t stick to the goals and usually within a few months have forgotten what the resolution was anyway. But I like this idea of picking a word to live for in 2013.  As I was listening to the sermon I thought immediately that my word should be Hope. But as I worshiped through music at the end of service and I sang “Arms Wide Open” and “Great I Am” with my hands held high in worship I pondered if that was the right word for me.  I already had hope.

Yesterday was our baby girl, Kaylee’s, 2nd birthday. We really had a great day. We enjoyed every minute with our sweet baby girl and we had a fun day just spoiling her and loving her. This morning, though, I woke up with guilt. I felt guilty for feeling joyful yesterday. I felt sad that Nate hadn’t been there to celebrate with us. I felt fear that Kaylee will never know Nate’s love. How he held her and helped take care of her. How he sat with me the night I brought Kaylee home, the look of pride the day she was born, the way he hugged her, played with her, and followed her every move. The way he would of loved to tear open presents with her and how he would of asked for his cupcake with “no” icing. The way he would of stood so close to her as we sang Happy Birthday and we probably would of been asking him to step back but he would of nudged closer anyway and he would’ve helped her blow out her two candles. This morning as I got her out of her new big girl twin size bed I thought of how Nate would’ve come popping in this morning to see if Kaylee had slept good in her new bed. He would’ve smiled and climbed right in with her with a grin on his face talking in that baby cheesy voice for her. He loved her. She won’t remember that. That breaks me. I will tell her always of how much Nate loved her but will my stories be enough?

I don’t know why hard days hit me like a ton of bricks are thrown at me all at once? Maybe because some days and weeks are just so busy that I don’t have time to really stop and think. Maybe it’s that now that Nate’s birthday, Christmas, New Years, and Kaylee’s birthday have all passed I have time to think. Or I have time to let the emotions hit me. But I woke this morning full of guilt for feeling joy and then sadness for missing Nate. I came downstairs and immediately turned my ipod to shuffle for my Christian mix. The 2nd song to play was “Arms Wide Open” by Hillsong. I can feel the emotions rise within me as I write the lyrics… Here I stand, Arms Open Wide… My whole life is Yours, I give it all, Surrendered to Your name, And forever I will pray, Have Your way.

After packing lunch and getting breakfast started for Kaylee I went upstairs to wake Drew up for school.   As I opened Drew’s door, I could see this ray of sunlight shining straight across Nate’s bed.  You see, Nate had this thing with propping his window shade open with a book or a truck so that the light would shine in and hit him directly in the face.  It was like he needed to know it was morning and let that sun in.  Well, this morning, when I saw that sun shining in the way it used to shine in on Nate I felt overwhelming since of love.  Love for Nate and the Love of God.   I actually had to check the window shade to see if it had been propped open, then I leaned down, stroked the ray of light where it hit Nate’s bed, and as tears hit Nate’s bed I whispered to Nate of my love for him.

Some days I find joy and some days I find guilt in that joy. Some days still feel like a dream I’m waiting to snap out of. Some days are just plain hard. Today felt like an impossible day. Today made me question how I will get through each day for the rest of my life without Nate. But this morning when Arms Wide Open played in the background and I heard again the words … Surrendered to Your name… I decided I will surrender it all. I decided that my One Word for 2013 is Surrender. On the days that feel like I can’t bear another burden, another ounce of pain, I will hand it to God. He will carry me through it.  I have given so much of this to God but I know there are pieces of me that I haven’t let go of yet…  I’m still trying to hang on to a little bit of control and it’s time I surrender that too. I remember thinking during the worship at church on Sunday that although I do not understand this path I have to walk and I have no answers to a bazillion questions about September 2nd, 2012 that He is still the only one that can give me peace in the future. Peace to turn 2013 into a year of Hope by surrendering everything I am to him. He will give me the strength I need when I feel like I can’t take another step. He gave me the strength today and I made a good day out of a hard day.  He showed me a ray of light when I needed it so badly.  He makes me ponder the question … If tomorrow isn’t promised – What will I do with today?

If you had to pick one word for 2013 to live by… what would it be?

All my love,

Birthday, Christmas, and a New Year

Sunday, December 23rd, was Nates 6th birthday.  I have a picture of him from last year when we had taken him to eat at a Japaneese steakhouse on his birthday.  We don’t eat out often but we always do on birthdays.   His special choice for birthday dinner was Sakura.   He loved going to Sakura but not for the food.  He went because he liked the production of the chef, the fire and the tricks.   The picture I have is Nate holding up 5 fingers with that big smile while out to dinner last year.  He was so proud that he was old enough that his fingers took up “one whole hand”.  I was looking forward to this year when he got to hold up that 1 finger on his 2nd hand so that now he used two hands.   He was supposed to hold up 6 fingers this year.

We celebrated Nate’s 6th birthday with our family and a few of Nate’s close friends.  I think it’s appropriate to still celebrate a life that meant so much to us.  For without Nate’s birth we wouldn’t know of his love, his life, his heart, his fun, his smile, his spunk, his strong will or his friendship.  His life is to be celebrated always.   We decided the appropriate way to honor Nate was to have his cousins and friends release helium filled glowing balloons to heaven.   Several children wrote messages for Nate on their balloons.  One friend even tied a card he had made to his balloon.  Following my childrens births this may have been one of my sweetest moments.  It was sad but the love filled my heart.  I felt warmth in the bitter cold.  The adults released a hot air filled balloon.  The site was breathtaking as we watched red hot air balloons float away.    I heard children say “Look the balloons are almost to Nate.  They are almost to heaven.  I can’t see them anymore they must be in heaven.” 
Nate, I hope the streets of heaven were filled with balloons for you! 
December 24th, we went to Christmas Eve service with my family and the kids.   As always, it was a great service, a reminder of how He is still speaking to all of us and of His Love.    I was a very proud mom during worship as Drew stood on the chair between Justin and I and wrapped his arms around both of our necks with such strentgh and love.  He watched the songs on the screen and he sang so proudly.   We have a tradition of the kids exchanging gifts among each other after church on Christmas Eve.   Although Kaylee is still too young to understand Drew began asking that morning when he and Kaylee could exchange their gifts.  Now, for the past few Christmas’s Nate had asked for, without fail, the truck from the Hess gas station.  Each year they are a little different but all make noise and fit Nate’s boyish personality exactly!   Justin and I decided that we wanted to still buy the annual Hess truck that Nate would of asked for I know.  Nate was the child that circled every single toy in every single toy magazine and added each to a wish list.  We would have to narrow his list way down to the toys we knew he would play with the most.  The Hess truck was one.    So, on Christmas Eve, Drew opened a Hess truck as a gift from his angel, Nate.  Drew was proud and honored and it made me smile that he would share that love. 
Christmas Day had ups and downs.  We made it through with the help of our family.  They were here for us and we needed them.  We needed their love and we needed to see their love for Nate.   I know Nate was with us too.  I could feel his presence in the midst of the commotion and excitement.  As cousins sat around the tree to tear into presents I could see Nate so vividly ripping through presents.  My mind ran through Christmas morning 2 years ago as Nate dumped out his stocking in disappointment, literally, as Drew showed excitement with each and every item.   Nate had a one track mind and was only interested in finding that “horsey trailer” (as he called it) that he’d asked Santa for.  The disappointment of not finding that trailer in his stocking left as quickly as it came when he realized he still had presents wrapped from Santa behind him.    I have that morning on video and we have watched it in the past and cracked up laughing at the whole scene. To be honest, right now as badly as I want to watch it, I know that I am not ready for videos.   
We were all sick over Christmas and I tend to think it was a divine plan to distract our minds.   Christmas day I cuddled a sick baby girl with a fever who wouldn’t leave my hip.   I was even late getting showered and prepared for our afternoon Christmas with family.   Definitely not our style but Christmas day we didn’t stress.  We did things at our pace as we needed.   We were surrounded by love and support by friends, family and our community.    Thank you all for your thoughts, notes, cards, and prayers.  And thank you to the secret Santa’s that left a few unexpected gifts at our door step last week.  You should know you brought a smile to our face with your generosity and thoughtfulness! 
As we approach the New Year and what is supposed to be a happy weekend and filled with New Years resolutions and wishes I feel worn down.  I really don’t want to admit this but I am dreading a New Year.  I am not ready to start 2013 without Nate.  I’m not ready to do this.  Every day I wake up and still hope this is all a dream and that Nate will be standing at my bedside whispering “Mom, can I wake up?”.  Each and every day I am filled with memories and reminders.  The little things that nobody but us will have.  A trip to the store is grocery aisles filled with Nate’s favorite cereals and snacks, a car ride is filled with memories of “Look at that truck” or the recall of every deer he’d ever seen along the roadway, or all the crazy conversations.   A trip to the mall is the instant recall of the new shoes he’d picked out, Reebok Zigs, black with big yellow soles for Kindergarten.   He wore them proudly, threw pennies into the mall fountain, and kicked the big blow up Ravens fan.  Every corner I turn I can see a memory of Nate.  I buy the wrong flavors of snacks for Drew thinking they are his favorite but then realize they were Nate's favorite.   I sit at a wrestling meet and wonder if I have cash for the snack shack then realize I don’t have Nate running back and forth for pizza, gatorades and push pops.  For weeks I ordered too much milk from the creamery and people would ask “Why is there so much milk in your fridge?”, well because without Nate I’m still figuring those things out.   How does one prepare for a new year when it doesn’t feel so new? 
I know us and I know that we will get through 2013 and we will be okay.  We will do this as a family with faith, hope, and love.   I am in prayer for God to walk us through this journey and that He will continue to open His arms to us.   I will still Hope and I will still strive to be Better.  
And I will Be Great for Nate. 

One Little Word

This morning I took the dogs out as I do most mornings. Since Bella, the poodle puppy, is still so little I typically stand in the front yard to watch that she does not run off. As I stood in our yard this morning I found myself staring at all of our “stuff”. I first saw the trampoline Nate loved that was a Christmas present last year. As I looked at the trampoline I felt tears welt up as I pictured Nate running and jumping and playing on it with his usual energy and excitement. I remember Nate asking Justin to blow the leaves off the trampoline with the leaf blower. I don’t think he cared that there were leaves on the trampoline honestly… I just think he wanted to see Justin get tools out and help. I began to walk around the yard and then saw the dump trucks he played with almost every day whether it warm or cold, or sunny or raining. Each truck had a purpose to him of hauling dirt in the yard or piling fresh cut grass into or emptying rocks from behind the retaining wall. Then the bike he learned to ride last Spring and whizzed around on like a pro. I can still see his little legs just peddling as fast as they would go. Everything he did was with such intent. The water table and sand box he’d always wanted and we finally broke down and bought him last summer. I claimed it was for Kaylee and daycare children but really it was Nate that I knew wanted that sand box. I even looked at our house, the cars, and shed in wonder. Everything we have I looked at in a new light and wondered just what does it all mean? We certainly weren’t spoiled and the kids didn’t have everything they wanted but to us what we had was always enough.

I found myself then pondering about the trips we’ve taken to the beach, to the lake, camping, or to the cabin in TN, to visit family, to amusement parks, or water parks. Then all the trips we were still wishing for… Disney, New York sightseeing, the airplane rides we didn’t take, all the things we still wanted to do with Drew, Nate, and Kaylee.

But then I began to think… Out of all our things and all our memories with Nate I wondered what my favorite was. In that moment my mind wrapped around a memory as if I could still feel Nate right there. Our afternoon cuddles on the couch. He and I would spend our afternoon curled up to watch his cartoon and spend some quiet time. It was the one time of day that in this crazy life that I really just relaxed. And it was with Nate. Sure, there were dishes that needed done or floors that need swept or laundry that needed folded. But to me it was the time of day the house was quiet. Drew was at school, Kaylee was napping, and the ringers on the phones turned off. Out of everything we’ve done… These are what I miss most. The love we gave him, the hugs we gave him, the laughter we shared, the evening game of “punches” the boys would play with Justin, the tickle fights, the family room covered in blanket forts, camping out in the family room, the bedtime dance parties or bedtime hide and seek games. These are the little things that when you look back have become the big things. Looking back I wouldn’t change one single moment of the love we gave him.

As we approach Christmas and the materialistic things that come with Christmas I am reminded of what really matters. Life. Love. Faith. Family. Friends. There are gifts under our tree and there probably always will be. I like giving gifts and I like smiles on faces as they receive gifts. Christmas will be different this year without Nate. I can’t hide that Christmas will be hard this year. I think this year, most days, I feel like I am just going through the motions of the holidays. I can’t seem to find that Christmas spirit and joy that I’ve always had at Christmas. The anticipation and excitement that I love is just not here. My heart is broken this year and that is okay. The last few days I have begun to realize that although my heart is broken it can be healed by Jesus. I want to find the joy to celebrate the birthday of Jesus because without him where would we be?

Yesterday, I found myself reading through Jen Hatmaker’s recent blog post here

As she referenced Lamentations I found myself re-reading it last night.

“I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”” Lamentations 3:20-24 NLT
“Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.” Lamentations 3:32, 33 NLT

As we turn the corner of figuring out our “new” traditions on holidays and in everyday life I will not forget the things I love most about being a mom. Last night I sat in awe as I watched Drew read books to Kaylee before bed. He has such a sweet heart and I cherish the quiet moments that we have together as a family. I will continue to find time for that quiet time and hope for an afternoon cuddle on the couch with the kids.

So as I enter the next week I will Hope.

Hope: It’s just one little word, but sometimes it means everything.




Family First

We are travelers. We’ve always taken trips on a monthly or sometimes weekly basis either to vacation or visit out of town family. We are go, go, go people. Our kids travel well. They’ve never known any different. We had traveling down to a fine art of packing and planning. I would start preparing a day to a week in advance depending on the length of the trip. I would have lists and piles separated for packing. The car loaded in advance with snacks and travel bags of goodies to keep kids entertained. We love to travel. We are the “leave at 4 am family that gets to where we are going before we can even check in”. We were always headed to Virginia or Pennsylvania to visit family. Whatever new place or adventure that came to mind or that we could afford we would do. Nate fit right into this mentality with us. He loved to go. He loved to see what was on our agenda next.

Shortly after Nate’s passing we decided we wanted to take a trip to Pigeon Forge TN where my parents have a rental cabin we have visited more times than I can count. Our initial thought was actually to escape Christmas as a getaway but since the cabin was already booked we had time to realize that escaping Christmas was not the right way to tackle it and instead thought a long weekend getaway during the Christmas season was a better fit. Nate had been asking since early Spring if we could go to “Nanny’s Cabin” again. We ran out of time and hadn’t made it this summer because of other family trips but had hoped to go in the fall as a family. So when we pondered a trip it seemed only fitting to make the 8.5 hour drive to TN.

We looked at a calendar and picked the weekend and blocked off time at the cabin and then really procrastinated on the trip from there. Normally the excitement would build for weeks but this trip was anxiety ridden for me. I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to plan. And I really didn’t want to pack. In fact even in the week prior I think I intentionally found things to keep me busy so I didn’t have to think or pack. Because packing meant packing without Nate’s clothes. Planning meant planning without Nate’s input. Because packing the car with bags meant I didn’t have to pack Nate’s DS, itouch, his favorite snacks or have Nate packing his back pack full of Hess trucks, matchbox cars, and coloring books because these were his choices to pack. Because packing the truck meant we had an empty seat and more travel space. Because telling the kids about the trip meant we didn’t have Nate to ask us 800 times if it was time to go yet as he counted down the days. Because the idea of traveling was all of sudden scary.

As Wednesday approached I found myself really struggling with these fears and truths. By Tuesday night it was time to pack. I had procrastinated long enough. As I lay on my bed looking at the clothes that needed to go into a suitcase I just sat there almost as if paralyzed. I knew I had to gather the strength to do it because Drew was excited for that early morning wake up on Wednesday and for the upcoming Dollywood thrills. I gathered the strength late Tuesday night before I crashed into bed for the night. I did it last minute. Soooo not my style. But on this trip this is how it was done. Last minute I threw everything into joint bags and set them by the door to load into the truck. I forgot socks for Drew. I forgot medicines I usually carry for all the just in case needs. I even forgot to pack a cooler full of fridge stuff so we didn’t have to re-buy items when we got to the grocery store there. But it didn’t matter. I packed. I did it.

I fought another huge battle of getting out the door. Wednesday morning we planned to leave at 5 am. We made it out the door about 5:45. It was hard leaving. We felt incomplete. We were missing our Nate. Every ounce of me wanted to run back inside and say “We aren’t going” but I know that is not what we do. We don’t give up. We cried as we pulled out of the driveway but as we made our way down the 8.5 hour drive we began to talk about the fun we would have at Dollywood and in TN. Our drive there had a few hiccups in its course. It took 3 attempts to get out of the driveway as we kept turning around for forgotten items (due to my lack of planning), haha. We stopped somewhere along the highway on 81 in VA for potty breaks and to change Kaylee. We stopped at a gas station first that didn’t have decent potties so we drove across the street to McDonalds. Justin got out of the truck to walk the puppy as I took Kaylee and Drew inside to use the bathroom. As we both walked away from the truck we heard it beep and the alarm sound. I found it odd that Justin was locking the truck doors when he was literally standing 30 feet away with the puppy on a leash. When I walked back out from McDonalds bathrooms I asked Justin to unlock the doors so I could put Kaylee back in her seat. He responded with “You have the keys”. I did not have any keys. I said “You locked the truck” and he immediately said “No, you did”. Uh Oh. It had happened. I looked inside the windows to see his keys still in the ignition and my keys sitting on top of my purse. 2 sets of keys both locked inside the truck while we look from the outside with a puppy, a ready to run 23 month old and a restless 7 year old. After the last few months of knowing things that we can truly be upset over… this was not one of them. What could we do but laugh and induldge in french fries and milkshakes. As we waited over an hour for Chevrolet Roadside Assistance to come unlock our doors all I could do was ponder what a new adventure for our family was and how this was a big distraction from the emotional morning we had. We also talked about how Nate would have loved the whole adventure. He mostly would’ve been excited to see the work truck come and see just how they were going to open our doors. He loved that kind of thing. We still aren’t sure exactly how the keys got locked in the car with the alarm set but I think it was all in our plan that day. We needed that distraction and needed something to laugh about.

The forecast had called for sunny skies all weekend showing a chance of rain into the late weekend. So Thursday morning as we headed out shopping we were surprised to see rain. It was the first morning on vacation when I was feeling sad over Nate and wishing he were there. I was once again reminded of God’s love. One month after Nate’s passing on October 2nd, I woke to a downpour of rain. On that day I felt depressed and sad and as if the sky was weeping with me. A very good friend’s mother called her and said she wanted to pass this message to me “Do not think of the rain as tears. Think of the rain as if God has opened the heavens and poured out His and Nate’s love for you”. My day and view of the rain turned around in that very moment. In that moment, on this past Thursday morning, I looked at the rain and thought, “Yes, God, please open the heavens and pour out your love”.

We love the Pigeon Forge area of Tennessee and have been there more times than I can count. We have so many memories there. I’ve spent the 4th of July there with my sister and niece Hannah, and the kids. I’ve spent Christmas season weekends there admiring the lights and Christmas spirit. I’ve shopped, spent time at Splash country and Dollywood, vacationed with my family, vacationed with Justin’s family, we’ve been all through Gatlinburg, hiked and been through the national park and Cades Cove. Every corner we turn we have a memory. We have all good memories, laughter, and smile provoking memories. I have memories of smiles on faces as they come off rides at Dollywood, or marveled at a view, or the awe in a face as we hiked to white water or waterfall views. I have memories of the Dollywood rides that Nate loved. The veggie tales roller coaster that he must have ridden 30 times. The shooting star ride he started riding when he was just barely tall enough and then grew to love. The old fashioned cars that you drive around a track that I know we rode with Drew and Nate at least 2 dozen times each visit. Sitting on the train that tours Dollywood as Nate watched the engine of the train in awe and trying to figure out how it all worked. As I watched Kaylee on some of the baby rides I couldn’t help but see Nate sitting beside her arm around her proudly as he did on our spring trip to Hershey Park. Nate wasn’t tall enough for the rides that Drew could ride but he never minded. He was happy to see a smile on Kaylee’s face and ride a baby ride with her. Remembering Nate at Dollywood and riding rides was hard but I have to remind myself that we did those things for our kids. Our kids have those memories because of us. Our kids had fun because of us. Our kids are loved because of us. And our kids will continue to have these things because of us. Nothing has changed. We still love our kids without fail and will never stop doing the very best for them. This trip was about our family. Putting our family first and taking time for us. It was about trying to relax and escape reality for a few days. Justin and I were able to sneak away leaving Drew and Kaylee with my parents and spend time together. It was the first time in months that he and I really genuinely laughed together. We were able to coordinate schedules so that my parents could spend some time in Tennessee with us too. While some of the trip was spent helping them prepare the cabin for Christmas and Justin helping my dad with a few things that needed done… most of the trip was spent enjoying each others company and having fun.

Pigeon Forge and Dollywood were beautifully decorated for Christmas. It was enough for Justin and I to feel like we could come home and begin preparation for the holidays. I think it gave me just enough inspiration to muster the strength to decorate for Christmas here. If you know us you know that I am usually begging to decorate the day after Thanksgiving and I have Justin under the house digging out Christmas bins. This year has been different and I have purposefully procrastinated in decorating for Christmas. Maybe I’m procrastinating because putting up the tree meant Christmas was really happening or knowing that seeing the ornaments and the memories would be difficult. Maybe it’s because Nate’s birthday is around the corner. Maybe it’s because Nate LOVED Christmas and toys. Tonight, because we are parents first and our kids want Christmas, we pulled those bins out. Tonight we started decorating for Christmas. We pulled out the Christmas tree and the ornaments. There were tears. Nate’s ornaments and pictures are proudly presented on the tree. His glittery preschool picture ornaments and the truck carrying a tree he picked out last year and broke on the way out of the store and with a 5 year old in tears I was right back in the store to buy another. There were smiles combined with tears as we see the excitement build in Drew and Kaylee as each ornament went on the tree.

We will remember Nate always. He will never leave our hearts in everything we do. He is always with us.


September 2nd, 2012

It has been a while since I have posted to Nate’s blog. I apologize for that but I have found it hard to muster anything to say recently. I find myself trying to live life for my family. Making sure that Katie, Drew, and Kaylee are taken care of and that we as a family are “making it”. I have thought intently about writing and expressing where I am but just haven’t brought myself to put my thoughts on paper. I want to make sure that when I write – it is thoughtful and from the heart and not just rambling thoughts that I experience throughout the day. See – writing for me has always been more about me. I think that I write more for me than anyone. Writing for me has probably always been more about expressing myself and letting others know what Nate meant to me and how his life affected mine. The only two reasons that I write are to let others know more about Nate and to express how I am feeling about where I am in my life. I don’t write to counsel others or push my thoughts or parental guidance on others. For me to do that would not be genuine – I am not a prefect parent nor have I ever been. I was not a prefect parent to Nate and I am not a perfect parent to Drew or Kaylee – I wish I could claim otherwise. As a person and parent – I find flaws in myself daily and I don’t claim otherwise.

Shortly after Nate died I met with a good friend of mine who has also suffered a significant loss in his life. He is a GREAT friend and he counseled me extensively about what to expect in the days to come. He explained to me that my life would forever be defined as before and after. I listened intently as he explained to me that life was now about BEFORE and AFTER. I admit that he was on point as he explained life after the loss of a loved one. Life had become defined by moments. Those moments consisted of BEFORE and AFTER Nathan’s death. Everything that happened would be thought of as BEFORE Nathan’s death or AFTER Nathan’s death.

Prior to September 2nd, 2012 our lives would be described as average. Katie and I were happy. We were the proud parents of three beautiful kids and we lived the crazy, hectic life that everyone else who has kids becomes accustomed to. We are the aunt and uncle to 12 kids and extended family to many others. Our weekends are typically filled with family birthday parties for a niece or nephew or consumed by sports or parties for friends or our kids. We ran ourselves thin and were fine with that but had also made it known that it was impossible to make it to every scheduled event. We did our best to attempt to make it – but my schedule and logistics just made it impossible to attend every event.

When September 2nd, 2012 arrived, nothing could prepare us for what lied ahead. Shortly after Nate’s death, I realized that my friend was right – everything in life was defined by that date. Every moment in life was either BEFORE Nate’s death or AFTER Nate’s death. Everything that I thought about was remembered with the caveat – was it BEFORE or AFTER September 2nd, 2012? September 2nd, 2012 is a date that defines every moment in our lives. Every movement, every action, every event revolves around September 2nd, 2012. Crazy – but a date that had no prior meaning now defines us. I constantly find myself thinking of September 2nd,2012. Whether it is October 2nd, 2012, November 2nd, 2012, December 2nd, 2012? Each anniversary marks a new milestone that you wish would fade into another day. You can feel the anxiety that builds up and through the 2nd day of each month.

Thanksgiving just passed and Nate was born on December 23rd. Each holiday is a reminder that we are missing something so significant that it is undescribable. Each December 23rd will pass and we will not be able to know what Nathan would aspire to become. Each moment passes and we are reminded of his absence in our lives.

I am sure that the next few weeks will be even harder as Nate’s birthday is followed by Christmas and New Years. I remember Nate grabbing each toy flyer that came in the mail and circling every toy in each as a present that he wanted for Christmas. It is heartbreaking to go to the mailbox each day and find another flyer for a toy store only to realize that each one will slowly find its way into the trash because Drew could care less about it and Kaylee is too young to know the significance of the day. The magnitude of the occasion is not lost on Katie or I. We are keenly aware of Christmas and the hole that Nathan’s death leaves on such a significant event. Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of Christ our Savior but is instead marked by the loss of our son.

Recently I heard a song that has stuck with me: When a Heart Breaks by Ben Rector. The lyrics are as follows:

I woke up this morning
And I heard the news
I know the pain of a heartbreak
I don’t have answers
And neither do you
I know the pain of a heartbreak

This isn’t easy
This isn’t clear
And you don’t need Jesus
Til you’re here
Then confusion and the doubts you had
Up and walk away
They walk away
When a heart breaks

I imagine that this song stuck with me because it talks about waking up one morning and hearing news that breaks your heart. It was like I woke up September 2nd, 2012 to a new reality. No one knows what it is like to wake up on September 3rd, 2012 and feel this way. No one knows what it feels like to not have the answers to questions that should never have to be asked. I realize that others have lived through this – but no one knows this heartbreak. My good friend always said “I am not comparing my loss to your loss.” And I do not venture to compare my loss to others – every loss is unique. Every relationship has a special bond that no other knows – I know my relationship with Nate and no other is like it. I am not saying my relationship with Nate was better or worse than others but it was unique. It was special and no other can replicate it. No other relationship can be compared to Katie and Nate, or Drew and Nate, or Kaylee and Nate, or Nate and his grandparents, or Nate and his aunts and uncles, or Nate and his cousins, or Nate and his friends…..they were all unique and therefore – special. No one can compare them or know the impact that his loss has.

The lyrics “You don’t need Jesus til you’re here” hit me. I have prayed for my family and the safety that no one but God can guarantee. Prior to September 2nd, 2012, I had asked for God to watch over my family and protect them. I had prayed that nothing like this would ever happen. But until September 2nd, 2012, I didn’t need Jesus. I didn’t need the strength of others until I found myself at this very moment in my life. On September 3rd, 2012 – I needed all the strength that Jesus and others could provide. I needed anything that would provide me the Hope that I would someday be able to be reunited with Nathan.

Prior to September 2nd, 2012 – nothing in the world could bring my life to a stand still like Nate’s death has. My life was pretty immune to such things. Naïve – I know but prior to September 2nd, 2012 – life was just life and we were just living it. Like every other family who lives life – we made it work with what we had. I never thought that life could change so quickly and permanently. After September 2nd, 2012 – FOREVER took on a whole new meaning. Forever meant something totally different. The things that we could have done – seem like things that we should have done. The important things that we think we needed to do – seem like unimportant things that we never really needed to do. The times we didn’t spend together seem like times we should have never spent apart. The things we got mad about seem like things that we could have forgotten about. The I Love Yous that were never said seem like lost opportunities. The maybe laters seem like times that will never present themselves again. September 2nd, 2012 redefined all of that stuff. What was important in life – is no longer so important. What is truly important in life – seems so much more important.

I remember leaving Smith Mountain Lake (SML) after Nate’s death and driving back to Maryland. My brother drove Katie, Drew, Kaylee and I back in our car. It was a rainy and miserable day to be traveling. I remember driving away from SML with an empty feeling knowing that we were leaving with less than we came. We were emptier than we were on September 2nd, 2012. I remember packing up the SUV and feeling incomplete. Nathan’s things were packed in the car – his bags, his toys, his clothes, his red and blue Crocs that to this day remain tucked under the seat of the SUV. Leaving a place without a child that you came with was unbearable. Just unbearable!

I remember leaving SML and getting about 3 miles from the house before a song came on the radio – Gary Allan – Life Ain’t Always Beautiful. I had heard this song a million times before but never had it hit me as it did at that moment. I hung my head and cried thinking about how it related to what I was feeling…….

Life ain’t always beautiful
Sometimes it’s just plain hard
Life can knock you down, it can break your heart

Life ain’t always beautiful
You think you’re on your way
And it’s just a dead end road at the end of the day

But the struggles make you stronger
And the changes make you wise
And happiness has its own way of takin it’s sweet time

We drove north towards Maryland and reached Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. During the ride I had been writing my thoughts on my iPhone. Thoughts that would later make up much of what I spoke at Nate’s funeral. We had mostly listened to CD’s, the radio or remained silent during the ride. None of us had much to say and Katie had played some songs on her iPhone. When we reached Harpers Ferry, I turned off the radio and played a song by Chris Rice (Spare and Angel). This song had meaning to Katie and I because it was sent to us by a friend of mine when Drew was in the NICU in 2005. Immediately after the song ended – I received a text message from the person who had initially sent me the song in 2005. The text read “Oh Justin, No.” I knew that this friend had heard about Nathan’s death and I responded in a text. My text message never went through to my old friend since we were in an area without cell service. I remember thinking to myself – How coincidental is it that I played this song and immediately after it ended I received a text message from the person who initially sent me this song. He had sent this song to me 6 years prior hoping that it would help lift my spirits when Drew was sick. The lyrics talked about a woman who is staring into darkness and pain and asked how much she could take. The song goes on to ask God to spare an angel. I had always thought about Katie when I heard this song but on this day more than ever. I wondered if God would take Katie’s broken heart into account and spare an angel for her. The song was fitting and it meant more to me than it ever had.

I know that no day since September 2nd, 2012 has been the same and that no day since will ever be the same. No day since September 2nd, 2012 had been as happy and that no day since will ever be. I know that life as I knew it on September 2nd, 2012 is different and that every day of life since then will be different. I have reluctantly come to grips with these realities and struggle each day to accept that reality and make each day better than it was since Nate’s death on September 2nd, 2012. No day will be as good as September 1, 2012 when life was as expected but each day since September 2nd, 2012 can only get better. Nathan’s memory will ensure that we live a better life than we did on the day of his death and that we make sure that Drew and Kaylee have the one thing that we can promise and have promised to all of our kids – unending love.

September 2nd, 2012 was a defining day in our lives but we will not allow it to define the rest of our lives. We will move forward with Nathan in our hearts, guiding us as we continue to remember him and teach others what it means to Go Out and Be Great.



When I first pondered the idea of writing a blog about friends I had every intention to write about Nate and all of his friends.  Nate reminded me so much of his daddy when it came to his social butterfly, Mr. Cool, personality.  He knew everyone and was everyone’s best friend!  But as I started writing this post I was having trouble emotionally finishing it.  Every time I think of Nate’s cousins and best friends my heart just aches that children are experiencing the pain of losing him.  To see pain in a child’s eyes just breaks my heart.  But as the days and weeks have passed I realized this post shouldn’t just be about Nate’s friends.  It should also be about these absolutely amazing friends that have stepped up to the plate to support me, cry with me, carry some of my pain, make me laugh, and walk with me step by step.  Because after all, most of Nate’s best friends…  are also families that are our best friends too.

Seth was Nate’s best buddy. These two boys were so much alike. I don’t think a day passed in 2 years that Nate didn’t play with Seth or at least ask to play with Seth. Seth lives across the street and Nate knew when his moms car was in the driveway it meant Seth was there to play. He’d start asking at 7:00 am as he popped out of bed if he could play with Seth that day.  We would joke and say they needed their “fix”.  Nate and Seth would go through withdraw if they didn’t have a play date at least every other day.  These two were trouble together. They were both strong headed daredevils and both tested their boundaries. I often remember them getting into mischief in Seth’s dads garage and getting tools out to “fix” things and then they would leave the tools around the yard and swear they hadn’t been into them.  I can see so clearly the look on their faces and that grin in their eye as they would swear they hadn’t touched them.  I remember them here building forts of dirt and rocks in the middle of the yard even though they’d be told 100 times not to dig rocks out from the retaining wall.  Or destroying the playroom building roads for matchbox cars.  Then they would clean up and I would later find every toy tucked into one corner… after all they had to clean quickly so they could move onto the next adventure.  It was Seth and Nate.  It’s what they did.  They were double trouble.  It may have driven me nuts then but now it makes me smile at the memory.  I actually chuckle as I write it.  The boys would often end up in arguments because neither would give in on a decision. Most days they would play really well and end their play dates walking home saying “best friends forever”. At the time I would hear this and giggle and think, okay boys, in a few years you’ll be embarrassed to hear that you shouted best friends forever across the street to your buddy. But now I see that they will be best friends forever through Christ. I will admit, at first seeing Seth after Nate’s death was hard for me.  I would see Seth and think of Nate.  I would get so upset to see his hurt.  Every ounce of me wanted to take that hurt for him.  About a week after the service I invited Seth and his siblings over to play and while they were here Seth wandered like a lost puppy.  He never wandered in this house.  After all it was like his 2nd home.  He was 100% comfortable here and knew where every toy was.  Then it dawned on me… he was looking for Nate or he was just trying to find his place here without his best friend.  So with a tear in my eye, I asked Seth if he would like to pick a favorite matchbox truck of Nate’s to keep in his room.  His face lit up and he immediately walked to the upstairs toy bin and told me the truck he was looking for and that he knew it was in there. I thought to myself he’s not going to find that truck in that bin and told him it was probably downstairs with all the other matchbox cars.  He said “No, it was here last time we played together”. Sure enough in a matter of 30 seconds he’d found the truck. The truck just happened to be a Steelers themed truck that Nate’s Pappy had given him. Seth’s family are Redskins fans so his choice in the Steeler truck was a surprise.  So the truck left me with a smile thinking of Nate in his Steeler jersey running over to Seth’s to play.  I think Seth was proud to take that truck home and the smile in his face made me feel better too.  A very interesting thing has happened the last few weeks…  I’ve watched Seth and Drew create a bond.  I think even as they don’t realize it that they feel a little bit of Nate in each other.

Seth was sporting his Go Out Be Bracelet in honor of Nate.

Seth and Nate on a preschool field trip. I can hear them saying “But I’m standing taller”

Honestly, Nate had more friends than I can name because he was always a friend to all.  But when I think of another special friend… actually a set come to mind that were from preschool.  Emily and Natalie were Nate’s two girlfriends and as much of a “boy” as Nate was he would stroll right with Emily and Natalie without a care in the world.  I will honestly say he loved those girls.  He really had a care in his heart for them.   Natalie has the cutest dimples and a spark in her smile that will surely drive the boys wild!   Nate adored her and Emily.   Nate started having playdates after preschool at Emily’s house.  The big boy playdates were Mommy doesn’t go.  Nate was always so proud to say “I’m going to Emily’s afterschool today”.  I found out after Nate’s passing that Nate had told Emily about riding his bike.  He told her “You just have to pedal really fast and you won’t fall”.  While, it is slightly more complicated than that…  That Miss Emily is now riding her bike.  She did it for Nate.  Nate adored these girls and I think he would have taken care of them through the years.  Maybe he will always be taking care of them now.

Miss Emily riding her bike! I know Nate is SO proud!

I could start rambling stories about Nate and his friends for hours as my mind starts flooding with memories there is another story that crosses my mind of Nate daring a girl to show him her “buttons” and she didn’t just show her “belly” button. He was a wild one and we knew we had our hands full with him.  We truly loved his caring heart and his spunky personality!

As I have processed the last months I have had many ups and downs.  While I’ve had friends that are supportive but I believe aren’t sure how to help me…  I’ve also had friends that truly stepped up to the plate and for that I am so grateful.  I’m not sure where Justin and I would be without the friends that we have created in this wonderful community.  We knew we would have our parents and our siblings by our side.  Family was a given.  But friends…  We are blessed.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him. Psalm 62:5

I believe God placed certain people in our lives for a reason.  He knew we would need strong friends.  My hope will continue to be in Him.   We may not have know how much we would rely on friends but God did.  He placed them in our world for a reason.  I have these friends that showed up the day of the accident to take care of us.  I have these friends that were waiting for us to pull in the driveway the day we came home and they sat in the grass and cried with me.  I have these friends that hurt with me and for me and I know they carry a fraction of my pain for me.   I have these friends that know we don’t “ask” for help so instead they figure out what we need and get it without being asked.  I have friends that I have grown immensely close to these last few months.  I have friends that our bonds have forever strengthened.  I have these friends that remind me of bible verses and keep me focused and content in my faith.  I have these friends that will sit and chat with me until 2 in the morning when I’m having a hard night.   I have these friends that know just how to make me laugh.  I have these friends that worked so hard on fundraisers and sacrificed their own personal time for my family and for Nate.  I have these friends that have reminded me that I have great friends because I am also a good friend.

So as the “Day of Thanks” approaches I think of all the things that I could scream I’m unthankful for or angry for.  I mean how could I possibly find anything to be thankful for in the midst of what I believe is the deepest grief one can bare?  But I am always reminded of my desire to be Great for Nate and to be true to my faith and to continue to hope.  So, one of the many things I am thankful for is FRIENDS.  For the friends that were so true to Nate.  That showed him such joy and fun in his 5 and half years.  Friends that helped him become the fun boy he was.

And I’m thankful for friends that will walk this deepest journey with me step by step and day by day and they won’t leave my side even on my darkest days.   I love you all!


Fundraising Update!!!

I have to admit when we decided to raise money for the Mechanicsville Elementary School playground in Nate’s honor… we never imagined in our wildest dreams that we would be funding not just the 1st through 5th playground but also the Kindergarten playground. We also never imagined that we would be nearing fundraising totals before the end of the year. This fundraising has brought family, friends, and community together. It has restored our faith in the giving nature of human kind and we have been overwhelmed by generosity! Thank you to all those who have donated online via the paypal account on our website, all those who sent donations directly to MES PTA on Nate’s behalf, and to all those who came and supported us at the recent fundraisers! And more importantly thank you to the fundraiser hosts and organizers who deserve a round of applause because you are all amazing and showed LOVE and GREATness in every penny raised!

We have now raised over $76,000 on Nate’s behalf from online donations, direct donations, Sykesville Bake Sale, Stacy Hart Photography mini session fundraiser, DoNate Be Great Clothing Swap, VA Family Fun Day, Nathan Chris Baker Fun Day at Hopppers, and other various fundraisers!

We are working with MES and the PTA to finalize the totals needed for the playground and we will still continue to fundraise and make donations for the playground to reach our final totals (that should be finalized soon). We will keep you all posted as we reach new goals!!! We are in high hopes of winning Rally for Recess (hint hint see the link under the upcoming event tab for how YOU can help) and that could be a $30,000 addition to the schools totals!!!

We want to remind everyone that we are still accepting donations online via our website and while our goal is still to assist funding the Mechanicsville Elementary Playground with the playground of their dreams we are also in the process of creating the Nathan Chris Baker Foundation. The mission of the foundation will be to provide financial, physical, and emotional support to individuals, families, and communities in need. This support will focus on academic and athletic opportunities that promote and develop the strength, confidence, and abilities they need to Go Out and Be Great.

Please continue to support us and Be Great.  Keep checking back for future events and blog posts.  We can not wait to see this playground under construction and then see the kids playing!!!

Nate the Great – Love that smile

The Story of a Rising Angel

The Story of a Rising Angel

By Drew Baker

This is the story of how my brother died when he was five years old. It all started on a nice Sunday at Smith Mt. Lake. Me, Nate (by the way Nate is my brother’s name) and my cousin Hannah were swimming in the lake. Nate took off his life jacket and headed toward the house. I don’t know the rest but I’ll tell you what I think happened. What I think happened while no one was looking, Nate was practicing swimming by himself. He got going and got far then he started sinking. Then someone looked back and no one was there. Then everyone looked everywhere and couldn’t find him. The wait was long. Finally the police found him in the water. The end

This story came home with Drew the other day from school. He wrote it while in his 2nd grade class.

My story of the day that Nate died parallels Drew’s and the ending is not much different. Let me explain.

The summer of 2012 began great. We were excited for Drew to be out of school so that we could enjoy a family summer before Nate began kindergarten and our lives were again busy. We had planned two trips over the summer. Each trip was designed to spend time with family and relax from the hustle and bustle that we normally live.

In early July 2012 we traveled to Katie’s parent’s home at Smith Mountain Lake where we spent time with her parents, siblings, and our nieces and nephew. The kids enjoyed time boating, swimming, and spending time growing closer. Drew was initially hesitant to be jumping off the dock into the lake but his bravery was on display and he quickly found that he was not afraid. He wore his goggles and life vest and was proud that he had overcome his fear. He must have jumped off that dock a million times.

Nate was less sure about jumping off the dock. He would eventually agree to do so – only with the support of his life vest, goggles, and Katie or I catching him as he jumped into the water. He just couldn’t bring himself to jump off that dock alone.

Kaylee enjoyed the water and wanted to be out on the boat and in the water as much as possible. It was a great trip for all of us and we felt fortunate that everyone on Katie’s side of the family was able to join us during the weeklong trip.

Nate was always fearless and wanted to conquer anything in his path. It was not long after we returned from our trip to the lake that Nate began to talk about his own disappointment that he had not jumped off of the dock by himself. Katie talked with him about this and we both encouraged him to face his fear on our next trip to the lake.

Later in July we were fortunate to be able to spend time with my family while camping in Virginia. Everyone in my family found time to come together for this weeklong trip and we enjoyed time at the pool, late night camp fires and the kids were able to make countless memories with one another.

There was a large slide at the pool located at the campground that we stayed at and almost all of the kids were able to go down the slide. Drew was all for the slide and after a slight hesitation was up and down that slide more times than we could count. Nate was more unsure of the slide and hesitant to go down. After some coaxing, Nate built up the courage and decided to go down – one caveat……..”Catch me Dad. Don’t let my head go under water.” It was important to him as kids were not allowed to wear life vests on the slide. Nate was used to wearing his life vest when he was in the water and not being able to wear it on the slide made it a more difficult decision for him. I was happy to be able to stand at the bottom of that slide 1,000 times and catch Nate each time he came down. He was so proud of himself for going down that slide. He loved it!

The week of camping was great and we felt fortunate to be able to spend time with my entire family and build memories that we will not forget.

The summer of 2012 came to a close as quickly as it began and it was soon late August. Nate began the new adventure of kindergarten and as usual – he conquered this with the same bravery as he did everything.

At the beginning of August, Katie and I thought that another getaway was needed for the family. My work had been hectic and we both agreed that we needed to decompress and relax for a few days. Katie and I began discussing one last trip out of town to wrap up a great summer. We decided that we would travel back to Smith Mountain Lake to Katie’s parent’s house so that the kids could enjoy one last getaway. Boating, jetskiing, fishing, and swimming were high on our priority list.

We decided to surprise the kids with the trip to the lake. When the boys got off of the bus on the Thursday before Labor Day we had the car packed. We told them to get into the car that we were going on a trip. Nate walked to the rear of the car and noticed the fishing poles that my mother bought the boys over the summer were in the back. Nate climbed into his booster seat and said “We are going to Nanny and Papa’s house.” I asked him why he thought that and he said “I saw the fishing poles in the back.” He was right but I didn’t let on. We climbed into the car and began the drive to Smith Mountain Lake. During the trip we prodded the boys on where they thought we were going. Drew read the road signs and they asked questions but we still would not let on. As we headed down Route 81 in Virginia, we began to give the boys hints on our destination. I told them that if they were good – they may get to go motor boating. The boys then sang the country song “Motor Boating” but still had no clue where we were headed.

We had not told Katie’s parents that we were coming down and it was getting late in the evening. We decided that we may want to call to let them in on our secret. The boys called down and talked with Chris and Connie and gave them the clues to our destination. Chris and Connie kept the secret and we were well on our way to a long weekend at the lake. The boys were excited to arrive at our secret destination but Nate would fall asleep just minutes prior to our arrival.

The weekend began well. The kids were having a great time and were joined on Saturday by their cousin Hannah. They enjoyed rides on the jetski, boating, and swimming. Drew took right to the water and he and Hannah wasted no time getting back into the routine of jumping into the water from the dock. Nate was still weary and hesitant. Even with his life vest – he didn’t have the courage to jump off of the dock. I coaxed him on Saturday to face his fear and jump off the dock. He eventually agreed but placed prerequisites on doing so. As was the rule, he had to wear his life vest. He had to have his goggles on and he insisted “Dad – catch me. Don’t let my head go under water.” I agreed and got into the water. Before each jump, Nate would walk to the edge of the dock and ensure that I knew the rule, “Dad – don’t let my head go under water.” I caught him each time. With each jump I would allow him more freedom to go into the water just a bit more than the time before. After a few jumps he was confident and began jumping in by himself. He was so proud of himself. I remember the look on his face when he excited the water – it was joy and pride. Nate had conquered his fear. Drew, Nate, and Hannah would jump of that dock hundreds of time that Saturday and they thoroughly enjoyed their time together.

Sunday, September 2, 2012, the morning was a bit overcast and Katie was headed out to do some shopping with her mother and sister. Katie took Kaylee with her and I agreed that I would keep the boys at home and watch after Hannah while they were gone. I was comfortable with the boys – I had watched them a million times and they listen well. They know the rules and are well behaved. Kaylee would be with Katie as she had a tendency to be out of sorts without Katie around and had not yet become the daddy’s girl that everyone promises me she will.

My father-in-law Chris was home with me and we decided that the overcast skies provided a good opportunity to take the kids out on the lake fishing. We headed out on the boat and fished for a short while before the kids became bored. The kids decided that they wanted to take the boat further out on the lake for a short ride and then back to the house to swim. The weather was starting to clear and Chris and I agreed that this was a good plan.

After a short boat ride we headed back to the dock. The kids got off of the boat with their life vests on, put on their goggles, and headed into the water. Life vests were the rule and the kids knew this and followed it well. Chris and I remained on the dock while the kids jumped off the dock and swam. Chris and I fooled around on the dock as the kids continued swimming. At some point I looked into the water and realized that I didn’t see Nate. I walked to the edge of the dock to look in the water close to the dock and check the ladder. I immediately saw Drew and Hannah but Nate was not in sight. I then saw his life vest and water shoes sitting on the dock and thought that he must have gone to the house. My thought was that he needed to use the restroom or was hungry. He had done this before when he headed up to the house. I had reprimanded him before for not telling anyone that he was going to the house. I walked to the house and up the stairs from the basement and into the kitchen. I immediately looked in the kitchen and across the house and could see into the bathroom. Nate was nowhere to be found. That was the point that I knew something was wrong. I knew that Nate would be in one of these two places if he were in the house. I headed back outside and yelled at Chris. “Chris – have you seen Nate?” Chris was still on the dock and advised that he had just seen Nate near the loading dock next to the dock.

I could feel the panic begin to set in but told myself to remain calm. I began yelling for Nate and searching all around the house. I told Chris to call 911 and I was joined in my search by some neighbors and boaters who were outside and could hear me yelling Nate’s name. The police arrived a short time later and one of the officers tried to calm me. I remember him saying “He probably just wandered off.” As respectful as I could respond – I told him that he did not know Nate. I know Nate and I know that he would not just wander off. Nate was adventurous but was not the type of kid to go off on his own without telling me where he was headed.

I remember calling Katie on the phone and telling her that I could not find Nate. Not a call that I ever thought I would make. How do you lose your son? Moreover – how do you allow something to happen to your son? I remember that as they searched for Nate I felt as helpless as I had ever felt in my life. In so many situations I had been able to help. At this very moment when my family needed me to be able to do something, to fix it………..I was helpless.

Nate was gone. Our lives changed. My heart was broken. Not sure how else to explain it.

Drew’s story summed it up pretty well “I don’t know the rest.” That version sounds much like mine. I think that is one of the hard parts. None of us know what happened to Nate. I try not to speculate about what occurred – the “How did it happen?” “Well maybe this happened.” I think that those things will only make me crazy and not really answer the question.

I think the hardest part is knowing that I was responsible for Nate that day. He was in my care and custody and on that day – I failed him. It hurts to think that he was probably looking for his dad to jump in that water and save him and I did not know he had gone in. I have had conversations over the last month or so and many people have said “You can’t blame yourself. Accidents happen.” I work in a profession that doesn’t believe in accidents. An accident would indicate that the event was not preventable. When two cars collide – it is not an accident. It is a collision. It is preventable. Nate’s death was preventable.

I don’t know that I blame anyone – myself included. I do feel some sort of responsibility. These are the facts and that feeling of responsibility will not change. It is something that I carry with me and will until the day I see Nate again.

I recall a conversation I had with the boys over the summer while riding in the car. The boys began talking about God and discussing the fact that God created everything. Nate was insistent that God created everything – EVERYTHING. I drove the car as they talked in the back seat and the conversation turned to dying. I remember thinking that the conversation was getting deep and I chimed in “Boys – I will never let anything happen to you.” I said it twice for emphasis. That’s a tough thing to promise and not deliver on.

As much as I love my kids and I felt that nothing of this magnitude would ever befall my family – it did. As much as I thought I could protect them in this world – I can but only to an extent. I am not perfect but I know that I am a good father. I know that my kids know that I love them and would never – within my control, allow something to happen to them. Katie and I talked the other day about our love for Nate. We agreed that Nate knew without a doubt that we loved him. We told him daily, we showed him daily and we will continue to share that love with Drew, Kaylee and anyone else who cares to learn about Nate and his GREATNESS.

Go Out. Be Great.