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……..love him…….and remember him.
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……..it 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.