My journey toward authenticity began the day my son died the day I died. (I can tell you from the bottom of my soul, they are one and the same.)

And there I was.

There I was. . .

(Deep exhale here.)

Nothing remained, aside from the physical form of the woman I had once been. Inside of that? Nothing was the same. When you come to THAT moment (that we all pray to God you never will) you have exactly two choices.

1.  You die.
2.  Or you don’t.

Physical death, yes, I suppose would be a third alternative (a thought that EVERY mother who’s walked where I’ve walked has entertained, even if only in an especially weak and fleeting moment), but I’m not speaking of physical death. I’m speaking of emotional death. Spiritual callus. The armor of the soul. Survival. Safety. The opportunity to disengage from the excruciating pain. The promise of relief from the acute, unrelenting torture. Option number 1, you die. See?

Option number 2, you don’t. BUT HOW DON’T YOU? HOW?! HOW?!!!! AND YES I’M SHOUTING NOW. I’M SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF MY BROKEN HEART. HOW DON’T YOU JUST CLIMB INTO THE CUPBOARD UNDER THE STAIRS AND BURY YOUR HEAD IN THE SAND? (Yes, my cupboard under the stairs is at the beach. Apparently. And yes, I’m done yelling at you.)


You submit.

And that’s how.

You submit.

You own your nothingness before God and yet your “everythingness” within him. For we are, each of us, nothing and everything all in the same harrowing yet joy-filled breath.

The moments after Gavin died horrified me. Horror. Times infinity. To the power of a million. For all the obvious reasons yes, but for one you rarely think about in specific. Eventually, friends, you have to walk away. You have to hand your dead child over to a stranger, and you have to walk away. I’ve never felt so small. I’ve never felt so afraid. I couldn’t do it. I moaned. I cried. I held him as tightly as I could. I probably screamed out loud, though I don’t remember for certain. If I didn’t, I should have. I’d certainly earned the right.

I’ve never been so acutely focused (before or since). I was completely keyed in to the moment I was in, the feelings I was experiencing, the fear that engulfed me. And amid all that terror, amid all that submission, amid all that awareness of my nothingness before God, I found something.


No longer was I a woman who was born in 1981, had lived a while, and was having this experience in a hospital room in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in 2010. I was Natalie.

I felt connected to myself in a whole new way. Connected to my divinity as a child of God, a literal spirit daughter of The Creator of Heaven and Earth and all things that in them are. I was Natalie, and Natalie, this me, SHE had the strength required to walk away. SHE had the faith required to move through this moment (and every one that would follow). SHE had the perspective I lacked. SHE had the courage I desired. SHE knew God in a way that I had never dreamed possible.

I held her hand, I kissed his face, and I walked away.

Over time, I’ve come to know her better. Learning she existed was half the battle, now getting to know her learning to become her will win me the war.

Authenticity. It’s a practice, not an art. A journey, not a destination.

But it’s worth the work. It’s worth the commitment.

And it’s definitely worth the jump.


This is the first post of a series. Practical, actionable steps toward the Journey to YOU to follow.

January 7, 2010

I remember walking out of the hospital room after he died. I remember each step in vivid detail. Richie and I walked, our arms wrapped tightly around one another—I leaned my weight heavily against him, trying to keep myself from falling to the ground. “I feel like Adam and Eve,” I’d said. “We’re on our way into the lone and dreary world. Nothing will ever be the same.”

News like this spreads like wildfire. As soon as I went radio silent on the www, speculations were rampant. I started getting messages from strangers offering me Valium and other strange narcotics. Thankfully, I was cognizant enough to know that this would be nothing more than putting a fairy band aid on a gaping wound (and thankfully my momma taught me right, “Just say, ‘no’”).  We waked into the hotel room, where Richie helped me bind my breasts with an ace bandage. Practicality still reigned sovereign. I was a nursing mom. I’d been pumping every 2 hours since he’d been admitted to the PICU, and I was in a lot of pain.

Then we climbed into bed, wrapped our arms around each other. . . and cried.

I did sleep that night. I know I did, because I remember waking up. I remember waking up and groaning at the throbbing in my chest. I slipped out of bed and into the bathroom, where I tried to gently unwrap myself. I screamed from the pain—I’m not sure if it was the physical pain, the broken heart, or a combination of everything, but I let out a scream the size of Texas.

Later that morning, my parents arrived. They’d booked us flights home later that day. They’d arranged for Gavin’s body to be shipped on the same flight from Salt Lake City to Honolulu. God bless her, my mom didn’t want us to be separated. I still don’t know what percentage of a fortune this cost them, but gosh am I grateful.

I just lay on the couch as everyone discussed the details of the day. I’d say I was numb, but that would be lazy writing. I wasn’t numb. I felt. I felt every breath in my body, every beat of my heart. I could feel my cells regenerating, my blood pumping, the growth of my hair. No I wasn’t numb, only incapacitated. Completely incapable of anything but cellular function . . .  to breathe in and out.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this story, except that I am.

I’ve never known how to describe the way that day felt in words. I pray to God you never have to learn for yourself.

Nearly 2 years later, I received a forwarded email from my friend, Jon. A stranger had written a song.

“I wrote a song late one night after following the story of your friend Natalie losing her little baby. I wrote it quick and recorded it quick to try and not lose the tension I was feeling after reading of her heartbreaking loss. It’s a personal thing… something I can never really comprehend.”

Again, all this time later, I found myself wrapped in Richie’s arms, silent sobs rising from my chest.

Little did this man know, he’d written the words of my soul.

Ryan Tanner, Salt Lake City Rain.


Above: me, wrapped in my swaddling clothes…

Hello friends!

I’m sorry I’ve been MIA this week.

I’m not going to color coat my life for the blogosphere… I’m in a genuine funk. I miss my brother, I miss my son and all this missing makes me feel like I’m quietly losing my mind.

Every time I close my eyes, vivid memories, horrifying memories flood my consciousness.

Showers are the worst; I didn’t realize how much deep, closed eyed thinking went on during showers.

I’d rather stay dirty, thank you.

I knew this anniversary would be hard, I just didn’t anticipate the person it would turn me in to. I’m grouchy and melancholy, and for the first time in a long time, I actually feel sorry for myself.

Bleh. I hate this version of me.

The happy news is that I respect myself enough to let myself ride this wave. One of the greatest gifts I can give myself through grief is the opportunity to simply be where I am, without frustration, without judgment.
Because this too shall pass.

It most certainly shall…


Note: blogged from my phone. Please pardon any crazy formatting or grammatical oversights… Muah!

QUICK wrap up and then back to our regularly scheduled programming, scout’s honor.

Above: Instax: Crew + me: @ the airport. As per every other second of our lives.

I know.

I’m sorry that this blog was completely hijacked by my sudden genealogical mid life crisis (of sorts). We’ve all been completely and totally saturated by The Generation’s Project, but I’m happy (and very sad) to report that the journey has officially come to a close. . . though truth be told, in my actual life and heart, it’s only just begun.

To say, AGAIN, that my involvement in this project has changed my life sounds ridiculously trite in contrast to the true feelings of my soul.

I will never be the same.

Above: Instax: The last scene of the episode was filmed here in Phoenix.
It was SO refreshing to have my family involved.
Missed them like crazy.

What I learned, in CliffNotes form:

1. We are closer to those who have gone before us than we might think. They care about us and are very much invested in the types of lives we lead. (I KNOW how absurd that must sound, but this experience has shown me that it is, in fact, truth.)

2. We should live each day in grateful tribute to those who have gone before. . . family yes, but also, leaders, innovators, heroes of all shapes and sizes, even the lost, lonely and forgotten. . .  and on and on and on. We have been given MUCH; we have MUCH to be grateful for.

3.  A grateful heart, is a happy heart. A grateful heart is NEVER a victim of circumstance and can withstand even the cruelest occurrences in life with courage and even joy.

4.  Being anxiously engaged in the service of others, carries with it a deep sense of satisfaction (and hope) that cannot be found in any other way.

5.  It is important that we keep a history, that our children, and their children, and on and on and on, might learn from our challenges and mistakes and rejoice in our successes. We must write, that they might know that the same courage and will to prevail that lives within us, is inherent also to them. We must record that they might know that they are LOVED, and even before they are consciously known, they matter.

Above: Instagram (NatalieNorton)
En route to the airport: final flight.
Officially bidding this journey a very fond aloooooha!

My commitment moving forward. Again, very much abridged:

1.  I will thank God for my blessings every, single day.

2.  I will LOVE and CHERISH my living children. . . in honor of Almira. . . who could not do so for her own.

3. I will continue the legacy of service left by brave and beautiful Lucy. I will not wallow in grief or hide behind self pity and doubt; I will step forward and lose myself in doing good, every day, and always.

4. I will continue to write, that my children (and theirs) might know me, completely–that they might know my deep, abiding love for them and for that God who gives us life. I will write the TRUTH, as I see it, from the bottom of my soul.

5. I will seek God more completely. I will strive to know him more intimately, through sincere prayer, openly expressed gratitude, and daily study of his inspired word.

My sincere gratitude (and so much love you can taste it) to those who made this episode possible: Racquel, Kohl, Marcia, Jack, Katiene, my soul sister, Chantelle, and allllll the folks at Mirror Lake!

Aloooooha, N

Now, as promised. . . and you’re welcome, in advance:

The childhood vaccination debate is not one that I found myself anxious to join–for a zillion very obvious reasons, then ten more just for good measure. I needed time for my head to clear, for my emotions to even out and frankly, to get my facts straight before I jumped into the ring.

Now here we are (Richie and I, together), nearly 2 years later, talking from a place of confidence, understanding and compassion. There is no hate or anger behind any of our feelings as they relate to childhood vaccinations. There is no discord or frustration, only love, empathy and a desire to help others understand a perspective that often has no voice.

PS. As you read this, I’m on a plane to Hawaii. Niener, niener.