Loss, and using it for good is always underestimated. Last Saturday I attended the funeral of a friend and former co-worker, who I had the pleasure of serving overseas and in combat with. Nathan Hege was his name and he was a man of many perceptions. I could go on and on about his character, but the most memorable thing to note is his impact on the world when he left.
Although one man, Nate touched the heart of so many. Attending his funeral service, I was taken back by how many people arrived at the church to bid him farewell. All the stories shared and the memories brought up, showed a stark resemblance across the board. We all had the same impression of his laughable and caring personality. That is where the good in loss comes in. Using the common denominator, people gathered, spoke, bonded, and caught up. Through his loss, caring came into place and warm smiles were felt as well all congregated.
I can remember my initial impression of Nate, and the moment we exchanged a few words as we met. I clearly recall the first time that we flew together; it was in Iraq, and under his guidance not a moment of fear or apprehension was felt on my side. He played his cards well as a pilot-in-command, and stood for what he thought was right as a military officer. He was often unimpressive, which made him more human, but still I won’t forget the first time I heard him carry on a conversation in Spanish; it was impressive. He was a combination of black and white, often a form of his own gray matter. These things made him a character in his own league. He was real, he was a good person, he was legitimate.
Last week he showed that the battle he was fighting was stronger than he was, and took his own life. This not one person in his life will forget about him. For someone so loved, it will never make sense how he could have felt so alone in that moment. And we will never know the reason why, but through his loss we will gain something long lasting; we gain perspective and heavier hearts. Following his funeral, I connected to someone else that had served with us, and who I never truly saw eye to eye with. That evening, him and I bridged the gap, and I feel that a new brotherhood had been created. And it wasn’t just my gain, but in the days following Nate’s departure, others will become more than what they were and new relationships will be made. Nate took his own life, and in doing so, he ironically created a new life for many.
It can be difficult to see the good in loss, but sometimes trying to see is exactly the problem. You have to feel, and you have to experience things, and let your mind catch up later. Mourn the person, but pay tribute by using the experience to build on yourself. His loss is a reminder of the fragile balance between two worlds, and we are great at wrongly estimating the accuracy of time we have remaining, as well as the time of those we love. We all say that we will try harder to hold onto those close to us, but in life we lose our grip. Sometimes, its in death, or through death, that we tighten it back up.
For all the years that I have left, here is to you my friend. Rest well and I will see you again!
In lasting memory of Nathan Allen Hege