The Grass

In August 2006 while Katie was pregnant with Nathan we decided that our family needed a new home. We knew that our 2 bedroom townhome was just not going to be able to accomodate our growing family. We purchased this home with an acre of land and I was excited about the growth of our family and the size of the yard. We were moving to a place with just over an acre from a place that seemed to be the size of a postage stamp. A place where I would finally have a need for a riding lawn mower and from a place that I could cut the grass with a weed-whacker. We were moving up like George and Weezy. We had finally made it!

The day we moved to the new home I went out and purchased the new lawn mower. A brand new Cub Cadet with a 50 inch cut. I was so excited that I failed to buy gas for the new mower. We had to push it to the shed. I was so excited that I failed to measure the opening of the shed. Needless to say – the mower was not going to fit in the shed. My friends who had gathered to help me unload the mower suggested that I just leave it outside until other accomodations could be made. Me being the proud owner of this new machine that proudly displayed Made in the U.S.A. on the back was not going to allow this fine piece of machinery to sit outside. I quickly got the saw and cut two notches in the shed so that the mower deck could fit inside. A bit hillbillish – I admit.

I enjoyed my time cutting the grass. I have always enjoyed being able to be alone, to reflect on life, work, etc. and hash out the worries of the world. Just me and myself in my own head. A lot can be fixed in the world by a person on a riding mower. I would plug in the iPhone and turn on the tunes…….all was right in the world.

Nathan was born in December 2006 and grew to love that lawn mower. By the time he was able to walk he was ready to ride. He would sit in my lap and just be in awe of everything. I can’t recall how many times that he rode the mower with me but it was many. I remember the times that I would go out and cut the grass without him and seeing him standing at the front door looking out at me. I couldn’t help but drive up to the front and pick him up. Even it were just for a few passes through the yard – he was happy. I have many, many fond memories of cutting the grass with Nathan on my lap. It had recently reached the point that he was almost to big to sit in my lap so he would stand between my legs and ride. He had become pretty good at steering and paid close attention to where he was driving. He knew that I was particular about how the lawn was cut and he was developing the same OCD tendencies. He loved it!

I remember filling the lawn mower with gas once and Nathan telling me “Dad, I love the smell of gas.” I talked with him briefly about how it was not good to smell gas but thinking to myself – I love the smell of gas too. I mean what red-blooded American boy/man doesn’t like the smell of gas? As I filled up the lawn mower today and the smell of gas came from the can – I thought about Nate and how he was all boy.

Often we would listen to music on the iPhone as we rode. I would give him one ear-piece and I would have the other. I remember holding him in my lap as we rode and just hugging him and telling him that I loved him. He would always respond “Love you too Dad.” Those rides were times that I will hold tightly and never forget.

Today I cut the grass for the first time since Nathan’s death. I plugged in the iPhone and walked to the shed to get the lawn mower out. I struggled through cutting the entire thing. That being alone, just me and myself, in my own head was hard to deal with. I knew that I needed to be out there working through it. I mean you can’t live the rest of your life without cutting the grass. It didn’t make it any easier.

A small job around the house turned out to be one of the hardest moments that I have had to deal with since his death. As I rode around the yard I began remembering all of the times that he was sitting on my lap riding that mower. I thought about how small of a task it seemed at the time and how much of an impact that small task with my son had on my life. I am not sure that I will ever enjoy mowing the lawn like I did when Nate was around. I do know that Nathan loved cutting the grass and his OCD about the grass would not allow me to neglect it. He would have insisted that we go out and cut the grass.

Each day we are faced with small things that seem so minor during the hustle and bustle of the real world. These small things that often seem like work are in retrospect the very things that we live for. I always knew that I enjoyed cutting the grass but never realized how much I enjoyed it until Nathan became part of that small task. I imagine that without Nate being part of the equation – it would just be another chore that needed done weekly. With Nathan – it was Great. Something we both loved! He made the small things in life – the great things in life!

Go Out. Be Great. Take a moment to enjoy the little things in life.



12 thoughts on “The Grass

  1. Pam Rohrer

    Justin, I could see you both on that mower. I cant imagine doing it the first time without him. And I know that you all are facing a mountain of firsts without that amazing little boy. If you tackle them all with the same outlook, considering how he would feel about you skipping them, or neglecting them, I have Faith that you will prevail through them with the same amount of Grace as that first mow. With God’s help, continue to be greatful for the 5 plus Great years you had with him instead of angry about the ones to come that you wont. You truly are a Blessing. Much love to you and Yours.

  2. Sarah Armentrout

    A beautiful memory, Justin. Thank you for sharing this precious moment and reminding all of us to stop and pay attention to the small things. Our thoughts continue to be with you, Katie and your family.

  3. Steve and Susan Davis

    Justin, we’ve never met, but have a mutual friend in my brother Chris Davis. When Chris first told me of your son’s passing, although I’d never met him, it hit me like a ton of bricks. My wife and I have two little boys of our own, our oldest just turned four. The idea of losing a child scares me to no end, and when I heard the news of your sons passing, it sent that overwhelming fear throughout me. I can only imagine the devistation that your family has suffered through and pray that you all are able to find peace. A few years ago, good friends of ours lost their 18 month old son to Leukemia, a week after being diagnosed. With all the pain they went through, the one comfort that they had was knowing that his spirit was always with them, and his life although short, was lived every day with love, happiness, and joy, just like Nathan. Your decision to rebuild a play ground in his memory will serve to bring joy to the lives of countless children for years to come, and we are honored to be able to help your family accomplish this task. God bless!

  4. Blythe Chambers

    Thank you so much for sharing this amazing memory of Nate the Great…these are the moments to live for, the simple ones, the ones that remind you that the smell of gasoline is so much more than fuel but part of the fabric of love and life itself, that those growing blades of grass not only provide green pasture and cushion for feet to walk on and heads to lay on while watching the clouds but countless miles of moments of love between a father and a son, and you realize how inter- and innerconnected it all is…and how beautiful, and how grateful, and how well planned God made us, this world, and life as we know it. It reminds me to never forsake something that seems so routine to me but so BIG to our children. What an amazing memory you’ll have forever and always.

  5. Toni Maline

    Love you guys. Life is all about the little things, thank you for sharing… know that by doing so you are helping other parents to take time to appreciate the moments in life, even the smallest most routine things. And know that I am thinking about you and keeping you guys and Drew n Kaylee in my thoughts and prayers.

  6. Jenelle Baker Cannon

    Love you all so much, so many times mikaela asks me if she can help me do things and many times to save time I tell her no , but I realize I need to say yes more often and enjoy the little moments more. Who cares if the task takes a little longer at least itll be time spent with them. I so look up to you and katie, you are great parents who have somehow always had that wisdom of taking that extra time with your kids. Thinking of you all constantly and wishing we lived closer.

  7. Lois

    Justin you are such a strong young man to write this and to get up and do the eugoly. These memories will always keep Lil Nate living in our hearts FOREVER!! I also loved the blog Dan wrote i can just see the look on Nates face,he described it so well. I loved having the boys here for a week, Oh the fun and games we played all week.I really think he loved Bible School that week with the puppets, crafts and outside.AndIrew really got into the singing but Nate just sat back and took it all in.I reall think Nate loved the car here the best when you and your Dad were doing the fence out back and he came up to me driving that little car he grinned from ear to ear and said hey Grammy go tell the kids we can ride the car now.MISS YOU NATE!


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