Thursday, October 23, 2014

Living Memory

The Fall season is at its prime.  Everywhere I look there are hues of beautiful yellows, reds, and oranges. You can’t help but be awe struck by the beauty of the season and its ability to be so vibrant.  

The past few weeks in South Dakota have been some of the most beautiful: endless days of sun-kissed perfection bookended by cool, crisp nights and mornings.  I wish they would never end.

I am so thankful for these warm days where the sun still kisses my cheeks and I am reminded of the beauty in which surrounds me.  The explosion of Fall color is a beautiful finale to the song that is the cycle of life.  Soon, the trees will drop their leaves, left barren.   When the wind whips through their branches there will no longer be the sound of rustling leaves, but only silence.   Rays of sun upon my face will be replaced with the bite of cold air as I anxiously await the first glimpses of Spring and signs of new life.  As for today, I will be grateful for Fall's embracing beauty and the brilliance of life it represents.   

A Life Lived
Sixteen years ago, at the age of 17, my brother, Nate, died of complications associated with Cystic Fibrosis.   It’s funny how days stick in your mind no matter how many years pass between.  If I close my eyes I can suddenly become that 11 year old girl again.  I can see the color of the leaves on the trees, the faces of my parents, the frost on the ground as we stood next to his grave, the sun trying to pierce through the heavy clouds, and I can feel the crispness of the Fall wind against my face.  I am filled with the same questions, fears, and guilt 16 years later.

Those years I had with Nate seem like a completely different life: they almost don’t seem real.  For a long time I pretended those years didn’t exist.  I still do to a certain degree: always keeping memories, questions, and emotions at a safe, manageable distance.   Maybe it has always been a way for me to live conveniently in denial about my own reality, and the deep connection I will forever have with Nate and CF.  It still pains me to think about those years: what I saw, the suffering, the guilt I still have in regards to my own health/life in comparison to his, and witnessing the deep heartache of my parents.

A Living Memory

As much as I have tried to silence that part of my life, it is ever present.  Nate is ever present.  His memory and life continue to live on long after he took his last breath.   When I look in the mirror I can’t help but see him staring back at me through my own eyes.  He is alive in the way I smile, my laugh, and in each breath I feel pass through my lips.  

The memory of Nate is still alive for so many people.  He touched the lives of so many: more than I ever could have realized.  Little did I know when I was a child just how lucky I was to have all those people in my life as well.   It's been incredible to realize how those who so impacted Nate's life have also shaped my life through the years: the nurses, the respiratory therapists, child life specialists, and our doctor who became such a vital part of our family.  One of the most amazing things about this blog?  Hearing the stories of Nate and how he impacted the lives of so many people: how his memory continues to live on.  It's been incredible for me to witness another side to the life I thought I knew so well: to hear and look at his life through the eyes of those whole loved him so, and to gain an understanding other than mine as an eleven year old child.

I often find myself playing with the "ifs" of life: wondering what my life would be like if he were still alive, if CF had never entered our world.  Would we be close?  What would holidays look like?  Would he be in love?  Have children? What would our childhood have looked like without CF?  How differently would both our lives have played out?  How different would we be as people?  What if he had been given the same life saving chances that I have been given?  Would that have made any difference? Will my own journey with CF follow his same path?

The Beauty
There is beauty in every life: every breath that has been breathed.  The leaves may soon fall, exhaling their last vibrant breath as winter steals their radiance, but the memory of their colorful Fall beauty will live on, having touched each of us. The magnificence of each color is a reminder of the brilliance of our own life, lives of those we love, and the memory of those we've lost along our journey: each different, but each just as beautiful.  I am thankful for these sun stained days, the vibrant colors of Fall, its finality, the gentle reminder of just how beautiful life is,  and to passionately love every breath.  Love to you all.

Here's to you, Nate. 
Whose beautiful memory still lives on in you?


  1. I worked in food service and i visited Nate often. When i would grocery shop for my family i would also buy things that i thought Nate would like.
    I have so many wonderful stories and memories of him. We spent many hours talking and laughing. He was wise beyond his young years. There is rarely a day that goes by that i don't think of him. He lives in my heart as he impacted my life immensely.

    1. Anne, your post meant more to me than you know. Thank you for your kindness to our family, and most of all to Nate. Thank you so much for sharing this with me. It's people like you who make the world so very good.