Happy Birthday to Natalino

Happy Birthday, Natalino. I need you to know that you are my son. You are my family and I love you. I will always be grateful that you married Samantha and for all that you have given to all of us; the laughter, the wisdom and the time spent together. You are forever, now, written on my heart.

Your gentle spirit is a beautiful thing about you. In my years, I have seen people grow into hard hearted spiritual terrorists and they have endured less than you. The untimely death of your father and all of the pain surrounding that unexpected passing, for one, has added to your anguish. I recognize that you do struggle; with God, with life, but struggle is different than being shackled to your past and then, in turn, intentionally hurting people in your current path with no remorse. Though fractured and sometimes drawn back, through it, you love and endure.

I often think the reference to the “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 12 when I contemplate your endurance. We are asked to look back at the Old Testament saints as motivators to us to keep our staying power, as they kept going through seemingly insurmountable circumstances. If they can go through what they went through and keep their faith……

I have been in conversation circles with close friends wherein we are all comforting one of us with a sadness or angst. I love being a part of a comforting source for a beloved. I am grateful for the times I have been the receiver of that kind of comforting love. We lose people, friends betray us, jobs are terminated, illnesses strike and accidents happen. We need each other.

Sometimes, hard life struggles happen and I can’t fix them for my friend. I can listen. I can hold hands. I can sit and be there.

There are those times, though, when I have rushed to repair, restore or revamp a situation; a situation that hasn’t just happened, like a car accident. It was you, Nate that guided me on this a few years back. I had a blind spot. I thought that, when Samantha was traveling in depression, I could put forward solutions.  I didn’t ask a lot of questions. I was offering the dash, the sprint, the charge to make things better.

Your endurance during many conversations; sitting and calmly assisting Sam and me in our dialogues (dialogues that had not proven fruitful for years), slowly began to unfold in loving and nurturing ways. I learned from your gift in guidance and patience. I naturally listen now, and ask more questions but I know I wasn’t always like this. You made a difference in my life.

I see you in your marriage to my beloved daughter, Samantha and witness that continued knack you have for strengthening through love. Character develops from the hundreds of small choices we make each day. I’m elated that Samantha married a man with your character.

I love that you cried when you saw your bride on your wedding day. I love that you embrace your sister-in-law like your natural sister. I love that you and your father-in-law have tradition together already, like the Thanksgiving Lion’s Game. I love that you have an incredible presence and confidence in speaking and teaching (I’ll never forget your sermon at Ore Creek). I love how your eyes get wide and you hold your head and laugh when something is said that you think is awesome. I love that you can play the drums. I love that you love your cat. I love that you introduced me to the joy of wonton soup. I loved that time, when you were getting ready to leave for your brother’s wedding and you asked Sam for your bank card; she explained that she had lost it and you didn’t freak out. I loved that.

I love a lot about you but rest assured; I love you because I just love you; no matter.

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