I will never forget the first official time I met Nate in the Spring of 2005. I can still see him coming down the stairs with a large basket of laundry in his hands as his roommate and one of his best friends, Frank, introduced us. He casually offered me his hand that night, neither of us having any idea as to where the next thirteen years would lead us.
The first night I laid eyes on Nate was a few weeks prior in the apartment of some mutual friends of ours, who instead of having a normal living room setup, had a massive trampoline in the living room. Nate was the nameless, quiet stranger with a Beatles shag of a haircut, standing in the corner of the room one-night tossing pillows at me as my friends and his friends all proceeded to get to know one another. And then, just as quickly as a pillow flew by my head, he disappeared. I later learned that there were a few people with them that night who wanted to leave and were going to walk home by themselves. Nate chose to drive them home…a simple act of kindness, already foreshadowing what I would come to learn about the incredible, selfless man he was.
As time progressed, my infatuation with Nate grew. He was older. More mature. Independent. Had an apartment and a full-time job…I was an 18-year-old, clueless teenager, about to start college, living with my parents, and sporting one hell of a massive crush on him. Well lucky for me, my friends quickly became his friends, and his friends became my friends and before we knew it, we were all spending most weekends and even many weeknights together. Him and I eventually became even better friends. I would take my math homework over to his house, and he practically became my tutor. And then we became best friends. We began what we liked to call “comedy nights” where every Thursday we’d make dinner and watch the NBC lineup of The Office and My Name is Earl. We began seeing more of each other, and more so on a one on one basis…Then one night in February of 2006, we became official…And the rest is history.
Thirteen years we had together…Thirteen amazing years full of adventures, milestones, laughter and most importantly, love. It is so incredibly hard to believe that I have almost lived an entire year without him…It’s been the quickest, yet most agonizing year of my life.
When Nate first passed away, I was determined to speak at his funeral. I had so much I wanted to say and wanted to share…But as the dreaded day approached, I couldn’t muster up enough strength to do it. Tonight, I guess I finally just want to share some of those things…I know I have always been transparent in my experiences over the past year, but tonight I just wanted to focus on that wonderful man I was married to. The man who stole my heart at 18 and never looked back…The man who touched so many lives and who was loved by so many. As the one-year anniversary approaches, I know he would want so badly for everyone to reminisce on his life rather than his death.
As many of you probably know by now, Nate came from a very large family. I remember when he told me he was one of nine kids…It was incomprehensible. Nine people pretty much makes up the entire side of my family. But man, despite how large his family is and despite the distance of him living in Columbus, he took such pride in his family, and he was so connected to each of them…In different ways, but each of his siblings were truly his best friends. When he got going, he could sit there for hours rehashing stories about what it was like growing up in such a busy household, and how much fun he had with his siblings and the mischief that they would get into. He would share stories of his three older brothers and how much he learned from them both on and off of the farm they grew up on. He developed his loved for Cleveland and the Buckeyes early in his childhood that only got stronger as he got older. He would talk about how his mom and dad raised him, showing him on a daily basis the value of hard work along with the importance of planning for the future. Nate lived every day with a strong sense of teamwork and dedication in every aspect of his life which he always credited to his amazing parents and siblings…and it was this mindset that transcended into his everyday life.
I remember on one occasion, we had probably been living in our house in Gahanna for about a year or so. We hadn’t really gotten to know all of our neighbors incredibly well, but we arrived home one day on a Saturday and Nate noticed that our neighbor who lived on the corner of our street was cutting down all of his trees that were dying. Without saying a word, he threw on some old clothes to get dirty in, put on a pair of work gloves and ventured over to the neighbor’s house to see what he could help with. He proceeded to spend the majority of that Saturday at their house helping with whatever he could. That was just Nate. He never did anything for praise or gratitude, but simply because it was the right thing to do. It was literally the way he was raised. He was a man of strong character, and when put to the test, he never wavered in his strong sense of self.
He was a man of his word. He was loyal. He was trustworthy. He was the guy you went to when you needed some words of wisdom, any technical issues solved, for practical or financial advice, and everything in between. He was your sports guru, who when asked almost any random sports question, somehow had most of the answers stored away in his brain…A fact he always used to his advantage when trying to debate OSU athletics versus Notre Dame with me…I remember many times begrudgingly yelling at him, “that’s not fair! You Google all of this stuff for fun!” Let’s just say I was never the best at those debates and most times had to call in reinforcements in the form of my dad…
Beyond his list of random knowledge when it came to sports, Nate was also one hell of a handyman. He was so smart and just loved figuring things out. When anything went wrong in the house or in our cars, he first and foremost would do as much research as possible to try to diagnose and fix the problem himself…It drove me crazy sometimes, but in most cases, with the help of YouTube and the patience of a God, he would solve the problem all on his own. He loved a good challenge, and was such a critical thinker…A characteristic I already see shining through in our son.
He was also so freaking funny. He would never boast about being a comedian, but he had that natural ability to just make people laugh. Whether it was through his terrible impressions of Austin Powers or just rehashing terms he had learned on Urban Dictionary or simply skipping while frowning (try it. I dare you!), Nate had a lightness to him that was so contagious to anyone he was around. He made you smile without even meaning to…He always claimed he was an introvert, but he also loved getting to meet new people. He listened to you. Wanted to know your story, and I have heard from so many people over the past year about how much he always just made you feel like what you had to say was important, no matter what you wanted to talk about.
He was so laid back, and such a go with the flow kind of man who when put in any kind of situation would just melt into his surroundings and try to enjoy the experience. When he traveled to China, Switzerland and Mexico for work, he came home with stories about meeting some of the locals and thrived off of being able to submerge himself in a different culture and witness different ways of life. I will never forget the beautiful letters I got from around the world from coworkers he met maybe once or twice who just wanted to reach out and let me know how much of an impression Nate had made on them.
Nate was also super active. Oh, he was so, so active. For example, on our honeymoon, I was content to lay in the sun by the pool, and he became friends with everyone at the resort by signing up for volleyball tournaments, ping pong matches, and pretty much anything that prevented him from having to sit still. He loved competition. Loved being outside with friends, running around and just being challenged. He played softball on three separate teams, golfed whenever possible, disc golfed whenever he was bored or needed to get outside, competed at his company’s YMCA events as often as possible, and pretty much was on the go whenever possible. He hated watching movies or getting absorbed in television shows because, “they take away two hours you will never get back!” I envied his energy then. I envy it now.
Nate was an incredible father. From the moment Ian was born, the pride he took in watching his son grow was palpable. He always made sure to include his son in anything he could. Watching him and Ian doing yard work together or mow the lawn was the highlight of my week. Seeing them go on walks just the two if them to Kroger’s or to simply watch the big trucks and buses on Morse Road melted my heart. I remember on one occasion just a few weeks before he passed away, he decided to take Ian with him to disc golf with some teammates from one if his softball teams. He came home just beaming with pride, explaining how wonderful Ian had behaved and how his buddies just get the biggest kick out of our boy. He was so excited to continue taking him on adventures. Bedtime was Ian and daddy’s time too. They had a whole routine that only the two of them shared. Nate was just so thrilled to have a son who he would eventually share so many more memories with. And although I have no doubt he will be alongside Ian every day of his life, not being able to see his face for each milestone Ian continues hitting is one of the hardest parts of his absence. He was such an amazing father, and he deserved so much more time. But I will always be so thankful for the beautiful three and half years of memories he did give our son. And each day, Ian’s memory of his daddy echoes in stories he tells me and dreams he has. Even in death, our son’s bond with his daddy endures.
He was an amazing husband. An amazing partner. Best friend. My everything. From the day I met him, he made me feel so safe and cared for, and loving him was as easy and natural as breathing. We were partners…a team and worked so hard for the life we both dreamed of…Living with such a strong level of comfort because we knew that as long as we had each other, we could literally get through anything. Nate treated me with such respect every single day, and I kid you not when I say that he literally never raised his voice at me or name called…We had a way of reading one another and always knew when one of us had crossed a line and owed an apology. He knew me inside and out and loved every part of me…the good and the bad…he never made me feel less than who I was and he built me up to be stronger than I ever could imagine. Each day I get further from the Marissa he knew the night he died…But his life and the love he gave me will continue to be at the core of everything I do and is the foundation of who I strive to be.
He was a hard worker. The hardest I have ever known. Only missing work when he absolutely had to, feeling guilty if we even scheduled a week-long vacation, and always getting to work at least a half hour or more before he was actually needed. He dreamed about where he envisioned his career taking him and was always eager for another challenge. He dedicated his time and energy to everything he committed to. Whether it was work, school, softball, volunteering, or whatever it may be, he made sure to follow through with his word, do his part, and always worked tirelessly to do his best in every aspect of life. He volunteered for Meals on Wheels during his 15 years at Mettler Toledo and also gave blood regularly too. He reached out in simple ways as well, such as always volunteering to help a friend move…Including me back when we first met in 2005. Nate took such pride in being able to help whenever and wherever he could, no matter how big or how small. Recently, I got a letter in the mail from a recipient of Nate’s organ donation. I won’t lie…It was extremely difficult to open and then to read, but it also gave me a bit of peace…The words were simple…”Dear family, one person can make a difference. Your loved one did. With gratitude, Robert”. Even in death, my husband continues to give…to live on…Which is what I know he would want.
I can’t wrap my head around his death. Even a year later, I have endless questions as to why and how…I miss him more than words will ever do justice, and truly the idea of growing old without him makes that hole in my heart ache even more. I loved him so much. I love him still, and truthfully, I know I will never stop loving him. He helped to transform me from an 18-year-old high school senior who knew nothing about the world, into a woman, a mother, and a wife, who he literally gave the world to. I could sit here for the next week, giving you example after example of the kind of man Nate was, but after the outpour of love our families have received and the memories that have been shared with us over this past year from so many people who knew and loved Nate, I think we can all say without a doubt that the 36 years he had on this Earth changed us all for the better. His presence. His generosity. His selflessness. His love. His hard work. His contribution to his friends, family, and community. His life…Damn, he lived a good one. I am a better woman for having had the honor of standing by his side, and I will work the rest of my life to try and deserve the love he so willingly gave Ian and I, and for the life he worked so hard for.