The New Normal

phil 2

Tomorrow marks the 2 year anniversary of the worst day of my life. The death of my brother and best friend has had a larger impact on me than any other single event in my life. Even though the list of people more significant to me than Phil is limited to my immediate family of my wife and children, I don’t think any death will so vastly shape and change me again. I may be more devastated, but not so wholly changed.

Mother’s Day marks the last time I saw Phil alive. We went to the park where he was to be married and taught my son how to roll down a hill. We went back to my house and watched the sort of okay horror movie, Insidious. I remember not feeling well and when he, his fiance and my mom and dad got up to go home I didn’t hug him goodbye, something I always did. Instead I went to the medicine cabinet to get Tylenol. We discussed the Rammstein show we’d just seen and how awesome it was. We said goodbye and that we loved each other. I can still see how he stood and looked at me in front of my door just before he turned to leave. It’s all burned into my mind.

A new normal is something I’ve been looking for. The world doesn’t stop turning for the death of anyone. You have to press on. Take your licks and keep moving. Focus on what you can manage and deal with the emotions as they come. Cry. Drink. Talk. Weep. Breathe deeply. Shake your head clear and get back to living.

Mentally I feel like I’ve never been better in my life. The sad days are few and far between anymore even though there’s barely an hour that passes that I don’t think about Phil. It’s a numbness that I’ve welcomed and cherish. Not that I don’t have strong feelings about it, but it’s good to compartmentalize it to some degree. There’s a healthy balance of letting it out and keeping it in. Life goes on. People live. People die. Sometimes it’s the ones we love.

Am I mad? No. Not in the least. In fact, there’s much I’m thankful for. Like the fact that Phil and I were so very close. We purposefully shared a room up until the day I got married. We always hugged and said, “I love you.” We hung out and always laughed a lot. I’m thankful that if Phil had to die it was over as quickly as it was. I’m thankful I got to see him the day of the accident and hold his hand while he still looked like Phil. I’m thankful for the outpouring of love from people I both do and don’t know.

The new normal feels like it’s slowly happening on its own and I welcome it, but also feel guilt for it. To not mourn for someone as much as you feel they deserve does bring about some feelings of guilt. You feel this way even though you know they’d not want one single tear shed. It’s just human nature. We want to honor the ones we love.

The new normal also feels like a mess because, well, it’s new. Phil’s personality was very mellow and he was a great glue for my family dynamic and without him, much has changed drastically and I mourn for that as well.

Sometimes I feel alone in this and sometimes I feel the lift from my brother, Jason, who walks this trail with me. Two where there are supposed to be three.

Most days are great, but days like Mother’s Day and tomorrow are not fun days. They’re a reminder of what was lost and the hole in my heart that I’m trying to not notice all the time.

In an animated movie I saw last year there was a point where the narrator talked about hearts breaking and the truth in the statement can’t be overstated. He said, “When your heart breaks, it can grow back crooked. It grows back twisted and gnarled and hard.” 

Sometimes I feel like the character he was speaking of. Still very much me, but increasingly numbed to many things I used to feel greatly about. It takes an astonishing amount of anything to get an emotional reaction from me anymore. It’s given me extreme tunnel vision. I worry about my kids and my wife. That’s it. That’s my world. So long as nothing happens to them I’m impervious to pain of any kind. I’ve actually grown to love this as it gives my life and tasking a laser focus. No distractions. There was recently another death in the family of someone I really cherished and I barely felt anything. Is my family okay? Good. I’m good.

All this thinking and reflecting about the living that I’ll never have with Phil, I’m always reminded of the great ending to the poem, Maud Muller, that states:

For all the sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Another day. Another year. Another normal. I’m getting there.




16 thoughts on “The New Normal

  1. Good tribute, Nate. We mark the day too, though I know the “hole in your heart” is there every day. How often I look out my kitchen window and remember all the times I saw a helmeted dirt bike rider coming up the backyard toward the house and thought, “Lord, I sure hope that’s Phil Pratt…” (I was never any good at recognizing bikes.) Nothing to add except that I love you and your family. There’s nothing quite like the love of a brother.

  2. Well said. The spectre still follows me, of the death of my daughter as a young woman. We always believe our children will outlive us, that’s the natural order of things. At any given moment, I can easily summon afresh the image of her, at two, coming to me in her pink, fuzzy, footed pajamas for night-night hugs.

    • Geez, Arch. I had no idea. My condolences on your loss. The thought of losing one of my kids drives me crazy.

      Your small memory of night-night hugs is heart breaking. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Your writing on life – as ever – finds the deeper places in me. I have been in one of those heavier places lately, revisiting my daughter’s crisis from three years ago, the good friends that have lost babies, etc. There is something to writing it. Catharsis, with healing.

    Arch – I had no idea, tragic beyond words.

    I’m really glad that time has brought a new normal with it. I resonated strongly with the focus and simplification of priorities that you’ve felt. It all matters more. Much of it matters less. The shedding of faith compounds this acuity. Its a gratitude of tears sometimes.

  4. Nate, thanks for sharing this. It’s very moving, and I’m sorry for you and your family. I have two brothers that I’m close to as well, and I can only imagine how difficult and painful it would be to lose one of them.

    Arch, I had no idea that you had lost your daughter. I’m so sorry to hear that…

    • Thanks for the kind words, friend. Sadly, it’s a part of living and we’ll all have to go through it at some point. To hurt as much as it can is a testament to how much we love those that have left us too early.

      Looking forward to interacting with you more both here and at your blog.

  5. Attractive element of content. I just stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital
    to say that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your
    blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing for your augment and even I
    achievement you get admission to consistently quickly.

      • I subscribe to a company, CloudFlare, through which my blog is filtered – they catch 99.9% of the spam and delete it. Those that get through, I have the ability to ban their IP addresses.

      • Totally random, but can you hit me with a link to your blog? I’d love to check it out.

        I’m pretty sure you gave it to me a long time ago, but I failed to bookmark it.


      • Nate, I would like nothing more, but the company I lease space from decided to discontinue the format I’ve been using for the last four years – they offered me WordPress instead, and – no offense – I hate word Press. It will be a couple of weeks before I find a new company and get it up and running again.

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