Heather was my bff. We got into all kinds of trouble. By all kinds, I really do mean ALL kinds. We laughed, we played, we imagined, we fought, and we tortured Nate and Chris. Almost every memory I have of childhood contains Heather, and a vast majority of those memories also include Nate and Chris.
Over the years things have, of course, changed. Heather moved away in 2003 or 2004 to Colorado where she married and had a baby. I didn't see her at all for years, but we kept in touch occasionally. About a year ago we got back in real touch. She filled me in on the family. Her marriage had ended, but she was in love with a lovely man she had dated in high school. Nate had been diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder, Chris had moved to Virginia, married a girl, and had a baby. Although things had changed and times hadn't been perfect, they were all managing well and happy. I was happy for them.
On Sunday tragedy struck the Hemminger family. Driving home from their Church campout, Heather, her fiancé, Nate, and Heather's son Donovan were in a car accident. Apparently the car went off the road, flipped, and went into a tree. Heather was driving and received a concussion. Her fiancé and her son were fine. Nate died.
I can't quite comprehend it. Nate died. He was 22. Heather is only 25. And people say the most horrible things, like here, here, and here. People assume that drugs and alcohol were involved. Heather is a few months pregnant. She doesn't drink typically, even when she's not pregnant. I don't think she's ever done drugs. She was on the way home from church... but they make her out to be a murderer, a drunk, and an irresponsible mother. Every time I read these, I get outraged. I want to yell at the stupidity of people for saying such things. Her whole life will be affected because they've published them. It's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen.
My heart breaks a little more every time I stop to think about Nate. He was always a good kid, a sweet boy. Life's been rough, but now it's over.
To remember him let me tell you a few little stories:
We used to sneak from one end of the Hemminger house to the other, trying to make it without an adult seeing us. Nate was particularly good at this game.
Nate hated loud noises. He was scream and cry every time a siren went off.
Nate's first day of school he was SO excited to be going off with the big kids.
Nate LOVED my brother Benji. Just thought he was the coolest kid ever.
Nate was typically pretty chill. Not really a "quiet" or a "shy" kid, but a chill kid.
One summer I rode with Nate, Chris, and their mom, and another adult all the way to Southern California. I had to sit between Chris and Nate because they would fight the whole time. It was horrible. I was maybe 6 or 7.
We used to build "teepees" out of fallen branches in the green belt across the street. They would stay up most of the summer.
We used to have races from one end of the yard to the other, even though it was maybe 25 feet long.
Snowball fights, food fights, real fights. Swimming, laughing, building, sleeping outside. School, bike rides, car rides. Lollipops, push up pops, ice cream. Lemonade stands. Childhood.
I will never forget Nate.