March 2, 2024: I woke up with a heavy heart this morning and chalked it up to the fact that it’s March. My Nathaniel SHOULD be turning 18 this month. I woke up so sad, I looked over at the pictures that I have of Nathaniel on the wall and I just saw his sweet little face and amazing smile, and couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. I pulled out a beautiful little book a friend gave us at the funeral. It was memories from Camp Wapiyapi 2015.  Shannon was Nathaniel’s companion and Becca was Lucas’s companion. I remember how hard it was for me to let the boys go to camp that year. I worried about giving up 5 days without them because I was worried that our time with Nathaniel was limited. And we were right. But letting them go was not a mistake.

Going through the memory book made me smile because I could see through every picture how much fun they had while they were there, and I will never forget how excited they were to tell us about everything they’d done together and how much fun they had. It was an experience they would never forget, and still today, it has created wonderful memories for my Lucas to hold onto of precious time between brothers.  I also have Shannon and Becca and everyone at Camp to thank for that. In fact, for years after, Lucas and Becca remained companions because their bond was so special. That was the kind of week we could never give them, though we treasured all of our time together and made every moment count. I take a lot of pictures, but I’m so thankful to Shannon for capturing a moment in time when Nathaniel and Lucas were so happy and had the time of their lives. My heart needed that today. 

I find myself so busy these days between work and sports and all of life’s responsibilities, that even I have forgotten the importance of making sure I make time for the boys. Everything I do is for them, but sometimes we’re all so busy, we forget the small things that make the biggest difference. They know, but with life’s busy-ness, I realize I too have forgotten to stop and smell the flowers and cherish my time together with them. After my crying was over, I woke up the boys (amazing they didn’t hear me balling my eyes out) and took them out to breakfast, just the 3 of us, while DJ was working. We used to do it regularly since DJ never seemed to have “holidays” off. Those days became Mom and Boys Day. I needed it. We talked, they didn’t fight with each other, and as they are growing before my eyes at 15 and 12, I realize they soon will go out into this world and my time with them like this will not always be “my call” to make. This year has been great, experiencing Lucas playing high school sports and Matthew, league sports. Lucas was gone a lot for practices and tournaments, and having dinner together became a rarity. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Being on the sidelines and watching my boys since is what gives me purpose right now. I will be honest though, all of these milestones of high school sports, the thought of Lucas driving soon, both boys soon becoming teenagers, I’m reminded of all that Nathaniel did not get to experience in this world. And it breaks my heart. I try to find peace in knowing he is no longer suffering, and get the privilege of honoring his memory through Team Nathaniel, but we are missing out on all that he could have been. He would have been a high school senior this year. He would have gone to homecoming, he would already be driving, he would have already taken his Senior pictures, and at this time, we would be looking to Prom and Graduation. But none of that is happening in our lives today. That will always haunt us for as long as we live. Some days my heart cannot take what I’ve lost. Most days, I know how blessed I am to have had what we did. A house full of energetic, crazy boys saying the silliest things. I have the privilege of being a mother. That alone is fulfilling.

As Nathaniel’s 18th Birthday approaches on March 14, I realize I am nearing as many years without him as he was with us. 9 ½ years we were blessed to have him in our lives and soon it will be 9 years that he’s been gone. How? How is it I’ve been able to wake up every day with the strength to face another day without him. The days turning into months and months into years. Sometimes it’s too much to handle. I say this to many of my friends because I believe it’s true, and often the only thing that has gotten me to where I am at. One day at a time. Sometimes that is all I can do. 

As I celebrate the day he was born and made me a mother for the very first time, I will focus on the happiness and all that brought my life purpose because of him. It doesn’t mean my heart isn’t broken, it just means I choose to celebrate the life he lived, despite the fact that his life was unfinished. Hug your babies tight. We are never promised tomorrow. 

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