After Nate passed away, I took about a four-month break from all avenues of social media. The reminders of a life I no longer had were too difficult to bare in those early weeks and months. As time has progressed however, I made the decision to fully submerge myself in sharing my journey through Facebook, Instagram, and through my public blogs, for it was the writings and honesty of other men and women experiencing this same grief that helped me get through those early days after Nate passed. It has also become a very therapeutic outlet for me to vent my frustrations and share the innerworkings of my mind as I face this new journey that I am on. There are days however, as I scroll through the memories that pop up each day on Facebook, and think damn…how is this my life?
Today was one of those days.
I got word today that Nate’s headstone had been completed…A call I have honestly been dreading. When Nate was first put to rest at the cemetery, I thought I would find myself sitting next to his spot every day in a futile attempt to feel closer to him. So, no one was more surprised than myself when I visited his grave for the first time last year and was met with an overwhelming amount of discomfort, anger, sadness, and pain. In fact, I still nearly get sick every single time I pull into Mifflin Cemetery to visit. It’s the cruel understanding that only Nate’s shell is there, and seeing his face and birth date next to his date of his death on the grave marker has literally felt like a swift punch to the gut every time I go. Yes, I live life with a daily reminder that Nate is gone, but damn…Standing over his grave is a brutal dose of reality I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Today when I got that call however that his stone was done, for some reason I was frantic to visit. Designing a perfect monument for the man I loved was one small thing I could do to honor Nate, and in that moment, I was desperate to make sure it turned out how I was envisioning. I had pretty much been avoiding the memorial company in charge of making Nate’s stone because I didn’t want to face yet another sign of the finality of his death, but the call came whether I wanted it to or not…And completely opposite of how I was expecting myself to respond, I practically ran out the door to the cemetery. Ian came with me too…My parents had offered to come with me once they got off work or this weekend, but I felt like I needed that moment on my own with my son…So we went.
There, across the street from Gahanna Municipal Golf Course, is a beautiful black marble stone etched with the name Nathan C. “Nate” Mast, July 4, 1981-Sept. 29, 2017. A father. A husband. A son. A brother. An uncle. And a friend. On the back, our last name and an etching of his bucket list golf course that he never got to golf on, Pebble Beach, with the motto he lived by in bold letters below…”Don’t sweat the small stuff”. The sight knocked the wind out of me…Especially as I watched our four-year-old son take a seat on the base of the stone. Tears stream now as I think about the beautifully heartbreaking monument marking the death of a man who should still be here.
How is this my life?
How is this my life?
How. Is. This. My. Life?
With that question repeating itself in my head all the way home, I also got an “on this day” alert from Facebook saying I have memories with Nate along with a few of my family members to look at. Despite knowing that whatever the memories were would probably bring both tears and a smile to my face, with shaky fingers I clicked on the app once I got home…A year ago to date, Nate, Ian, and myself along with the rest of my family had just started a vacation at our favorite place Bear Lake, Michigan…A year ago I was sunbathing, swimming, cooking out, and loving life with the most important people in my life. I was watching my hubby kayak around the entire lake with our son, thinking “life doesn’t get much better than this”. That week my hubby also surprised me with news that I would be joining him on his work trip to Las Vegas, and so we also spent the week excitedly planning our romantic trip to the west coast that would be a few weeks after we got home from vacation…a trip that would inevitably be the last trip Nate and I would ever have together.
A year ago, I was having one of the best weeks of my life and 365 days later, I am taking a snapshot of our son next to his daddy’s gravestone.
I hate being widow. Life without Nate is confusing and just plain sad. I have worked extremely hard to try and discover outlets that provide a sort of happiness, but if I were given one wish, I would absolutely take back my old life in a split second…I would do just about anything to bring my husband back and jump right back into the simple bliss and joy that was our lives together. But I can’t. And accepting that fact is the hardest task imaginable. However, the one and only thing that has been (I don’t want to say “good” about being a widow, because lord knows there is nothing good about widowhood) a “back-handed blessing” is the perspective that widowhood has given me. Seeing a man who was once invincible in your eyes lying lifeless on a stretcher…A man who held your very heart in his hands…A man who gave you the world and chose to spend all the days of his life with you only to have his life end at 36 with no warning…nothing. Boy, does it change the way you see the world…The way you see life.
I see the imperativeness of living in the now. In the big scheme of things, we only have control over a certain amount of aspects in our life. Our job. Our friends. What we want for dinner. How we greet the day in the morning. Other than those kinds of things, truly, not one breath or one heart beat or one day or one minute is guaranteed. It was scary at first to comprehend this fact, but almost a year in, I can say it echoes in my head on a daily basis. I think we all think we have that understanding, but I think its difficult to fully understand until death is right in front of your face…Or when you are forced to face mortality head on. It rocks your world to the core, and you quickly realize there is no going back to “before” …Because before doesn’t exist…Only “now” does.
A year ago, I was on vacation with my love. Today I visited his grave. Tomorrow? Well, if I am lucky enough to be a part of tomorrow, I am going to wake up and keep on trying to live in the now. Because that’s really the only guarantee we have in this life…the now.