I’ve spent a lot of today trying not to think of the fact that today is Nate Henn’s birthday. Partly because it’s still raw and painful, partly because it makes me take an honest look at myself and evaluate how I’m doing emotionally, and partly because I don’t know what to do about it.
For instance, I’ve spent the last hour trying to decide whether to make a Facebook status saying “Happy Birthday, Nate” or not. I haven’t, but maybe I will as the night goes on.
I sat down to write to try to sort out my thoughts – a few years have gone by since Nate’s passing and there are a couple of things that I keep coming back to in my head.
Nate and I were extremely unlike each other. When I found out we would be touring together, I was initially worried, thinking “What in the HELL are these people doing putting me on a team with such a bro jock?! “It was such an unusual experience that we were about to embark on, too. A 10 week tour with 3 people that weren’t even from this country. We had to see the country through new eyes, as though we were seeing it for the first time. And we realized, that, yes, buffets really are awesome because you can get as much food as you want as many times as you want and they just keep refilling your soda until you leave. And yes, parts of the United States are incredibly complex and impressive, while other areas are as sparse as Central African villages. As the only two people who had toured before, we had the benefit of experience, and we counted on each other to shoulder the weight of leading the team whenever things went wrong. And, boy, did things go wrong. And what I began to see as such wide differences between me and him eventually became a kinship, where we were working 24 hours a day to make sure that this team and this tour didn’t self-destruct. I began to respect this man. And not just because he blasted Brand New and Dashboard as loud as possible. But because we trusted each other, and we fought hard together to make that tour successful.
I’ve been coming back to that word: respect. I can’t get it out of my head. The truth is, I have so much respect for him, for his life, his work ethic, his family. He was such a bold soul, and he wasn’t afraid to lay it all on the line. One of the most exhausting parts of tour is leaving your teammates, and I remember as we hugged and cried with Angela and Allysen and Hannah and Inno and Christo that our biggest concern was making sure that the rest of the team was okay. We didn’t really worry about each other though, because we knew that we were both strong and had incredible friends to support us. So, when we turned to say goodbye to each other, we both kind of shrugged and said, “Welp, we made it.” And we said goodbye, but it wasn’t really goodbye. Because we both knew that we had pretty big lives ahead of us, and that our lives would cross during another adventure.
See you next adventure.
And then I think about Tyler Dunning, and his unhealthy obsession with Peter Pan. I think of Peter saying “To die would be an awfully big adventure.” And maybe it is. All I know is that I miss this man that has become a part of me.
I’ve been dealing with feelings of guilt for what I should have said or done before he died. I’ve been dealing with anger at God, Planet Earth, Karma, and Horoscopes for him being in the wrong place during that bombing. I think I’m moving past that, slowly. So slowly.
But I hope that as we move into this next year, that I – that we, as a community, as a planet – can remember this man, remember his commitment to global justice, and respect him and his life by living as best we can – by never settling, by never giving up, and by always loving and working toward a better world.
Thanks, Nate. Happy Birthday. We’ll pour one out for you.