The door to a dark room opened before me and there sat a boy reposed on an antique wrought iron bed with the glare of the TV shining on his face. The blue light revealed his annoyance at being disturbed amidst watching an important surf movie. "This is your husband," I heard a voice in my head speak. What?!?! I was 11 going on 12 years old and this monumental message floated straight into my consciousness out of nowhere.
About this song: It is uncanny how this Scottish Gaelic song describes Nathanael's life. It was written by a man to honor of the death of his brother Calum, a Gaelic folk-song archivist. It is sung by one of N's favorite Scottish artists Julie Fowlis. I posted it once before, but encourage you to take 3 minutes to watch again to remember our amazing, brilliant and kind friend. We're Irish descendants after all -- dirges are in our DNA. Pour a cup o'kindness and grab your kleenex. Best to read after taking in the story below.
His Aunt introduced this boy to my mom and me as her nephew Nathanael. Then we slipped away from the lad's aloof presence just as quickly as we had peeked in.
I tried to blow off the voice I heard as silly middle school girl romance. But it was hard to ignore. Especially since I found this shy boy with sandy blonde hair who looked like a Ralph Lauren model VERY cute. And the hard-to-get, snobbish surfer vibes made him even more interesting.
Just (Best of) Friends
As the years rolled on Nathanael and I remained good family friends... with some low-key, secret high school romance thrown in the mix... but the end result was always a deep and trusting friendship. In fact, when we attended our local community college and hung out together, everyone assumed we were brother and sister. We both felt very out of place in Southern California's surf, skate, party culture and tried to make our local college experience as enriching as possible. We visited museums and libraries; tripped out on poems, books and music that moved us; watched black and white movies; cooked and ate gourmet lunches at N's house daily (while his sister Fee made us fall out of our chairs with hysterical surfer kook stories); and studied God's Word with his mom Hilary who read to us from her collection of old school preachers like Arthur Pink, Andrew Murray, A.W. Tozer, Charles Spurgeon etc. Those were sweet times!
Surfer to Scholar
Nathanael made his final move away from the beach culture he grew up in when he spent a semester abroad in Oxford, England. In Europe he came to life both soulfully and spiritually, finding his own deep relationship with Jesus alongside a lifelong passion for history and literature. This was also the beginning of his long, slow descent into chronic illness. Despite his many health trials as a young man, N grew strong in his faith in Christ along with manifesting an intense intellect and impressive photographic memory. He could remember dates and details of England's long history as well as he could retain and explain scientific processes in biology, chemistry and physiology. It was no big deal for his sharp brain and remained so to the day of his death.
When we both transferred our college studies to the University of Puget Sound in Washington state, it was a breath of storm-washed air. We finally escaped the blinding glare of Southern California's perpetual sunshine, friendless crowds and endless freeways. We stepped into a romantic setting with old brick buildings, towering green trees, ominous winters, radiant springtimes, affordable vintage shops, cheap and yummy Asian food on every corner, and delightful friendships.
It was there that Nathanael desired to fulfill his dream of becoming an English professor. He had glowing letters of recommendation (one of which you can read here), and applied to several grad schools in the Pacific Northwest, but could not pursue studies with any of them due to his escalating health crisis.
In Sickness and Holistic Health
Nathanael was not one to sit around waiting to get well so along with working 24-7 on his health (alongside his never-give-up-till-you-find-an-answer mom, Hilary), he found an online Master's in Holistic Nutrition program to occupy his mind and give him direction for his future. His passion for the English language turned into a passion for learning all he could about natural healing, ancient nutrition and functional medicine.
It was in the midst of N's health journey and nutrition studies that we fell in love. Well, I fell in love long before, but he finally caught up:). I had a head start with God's (not so) mysterious message hanging over me throughout the years. You can read all about our life together N's story.
Nathanael's greatest desire was to use his knowledge of natural health to help others. I frequently came home from a day of teaching to find him laying flat in bed, due to his weary and frail body, conversing brilliantly and cheerfully with someone, even doctors, about health protocols and holistic discoveries.
Many functional doctors told him he would make a terrific Naturopathic doctor when he got well, and no doubt he would have loved pursuing that dream. But due to the raging nature of his advanced Lyme Disease and crippling osteoporosis, N could not finish his Master's Degree in holistic nutrition.
But he never gave up on studying functional health daily and using his knowledge to help those he cared for. We hoped to create a blog together to share all his learning, but our life together was constantly stressful, hectic and full of trauma. We never got to it.
And in some ways this memorial blog has been a place for that. A place of memories and a way to pass on his passion for natural health. But I have long felt there was more to be done with N's hard work.
Carrying on N's Calling
Last year, just before the anniversary of N's fourth year in heaven, I felt a strong urge to go back to school. I had been running my vintage shop (glorytrain.etsy.com) after N's passing, but felt there was more to do. Due to my own post-caregiving health issues (back problems, hormone issues, hypothyroidism, sleep problems, anxiety), I found myself trying to apply all that N and Hilary taught me to my own health.
I got deeply into research and started with some books Hilary had recommended to me before she went home. I would stay up late reading and searching for articles about adrenal and thyroid issues, hormone balancing, neuroplasticity, brain rewiring, mental health, longevity, genetics, functional nutrition, mind-body medicine, old-world remedies etc. I couldn't get enough!
The weird thing is that in all this research I'd constantly run into things Nathanael had taught me years before. Sometimes it was word for word (thanks to his photographic memory) and I was always blown away recalling how "N told me that!"For example, he used to warn me about being on my phone at night and how just ten minutes of blue light from a screen could disrupt hours of melatonin production. This was years before anyone cared about this; there are plenty of articles on this now.
Last spring, after much consideration and prayer, I felt it was time to finish the learning Nathanael had started. I enthusiastically enrolled in the Nutritional Therapy Association to study functional, holistic nutrition.
After 9 months of intense studies grounded in anatomy and physiology, holistic health, and functional nutrition, I am now a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP).
I have dedicated my practice and educational website to both Nathanael and Hilary, who inspired this vintage-loving, public school teacher to bring to the forefront all they both taught me through years about holistic health, functional nutrition and ancestral cooking.
They were my first and best teachers and I would be nowhere without both of their love, wisdom and guidance.
I know Nathanael would be shocked at how I've taken on his mantle. But perhaps he wouldn't. In the words of a wise Greek landlord he once rented from after college:
"Years of nagging will do it!"
So here's to N and Hilary on the anniversary of his 5th year Home. I know our loved ones were not healed on earth the way we all prayed so hard for, but their labors of learning were not in vain. Their deep knowledge and use of food as medicine will now be shared widely with others who need it!
If you want to read the dedication to them on my website you can click here and if you want to follow along with holistic health tips, research-based functional nutrition articles, and yummy, nourishing recipes (many of which come from Hilary's collection of old-world cook books) you can sign up for my Brain Health Breakfast Guide on the website and I'll keep you in the loop!
I hope to see you there as I attempt to carry on Nathanael's calling by God's great grace!
I will still be maintaining this memorial website as a place to share N and Hilary stories over the years. Stay tuned and always feel free to write me personally with any comments or special N or Hil stories to cheer us up!
Thanks for being part of this community!