I’m working on this. It’s very emotional for me so it may take me some time.
Why Nate died
Nate suffered from mental illness, beginning with major depressive disorder in his teens and then also with probable bi-polar 2 in his early twenties. Mental illness is very misunderstood still today. The insidiousness of mental illness is that it is very, very hard to treat because what is going on in your brain prevents you from seeking treatment. Furthermore, existing laws basically prevent parents of adult children from intervening.
Mental illness is a disease just like cancer is a disease and it can kill you. With mental illness the brain is not functioning properly and is sending the wrong signals for the situation. Just like people with Alzheimer’s experience an altered mental state which can even change their personality, so it is for people with mental illness. It is not a situation of “just try harder” or “just trust God.” As you will see from Nate’s writings, he loved God very much, and even thought about attending seminary and going into ministry. But to live in a brain that is full of disordered thinking and unbearably intense emotions and thoughts is torture. I’m not talking about seasons of hardship which we all face. I am talking about feeling like there is something that is outside of you taking over your brain. Towards the end, Nate thought he must have brain cancer. It was simply awful. In deep despair of finding a way to tolerate the misfirings of his brain, Nate ended his life. He did because he wanted to be at peace, to be with God. He could not possibly have understood how unbearably difficult it would be for his family or he wouldn’t have left.
To blame people for their death is one of the cruelest things I can imagine. We would never blame a person who died of cancer. We would not blame an Alzheimer’s patient for dying. Martin Luther described death from mental illness as if a bear had come and attacked you out of the woods. Thankfully very, very few people have been unkind to us. Almost everyone has been loving, reminding us that Nate is well and happy in heaven. I have had multiple very vivid dreams of Nate. In one of these dreams he gave me a tour of heaven. Later I read a book about near death experiences and what was described there amazingly similar to my dream. Friends have had dreams of Nate which included details of his life that they couldn’t possibly have known.
I have lots of thoughts about people’s response to tragedy, especially this type of tragedy. Most of the time when people say unkind or inappropriate things, they do it from a place of self-protection because they want to feel like something that bad could never happen to them or their family. Going through the horrible devastation of losing a child has forced me to look at suffering as a believer in a very focused, intense way. I will share some of those thoughts over time on the page “Suffering as a Child of God.”
I want to end here by saying how very, very grateful I am to my husband and daughters. We have all stuck together and loved one another and believed the best for one another in the most challenging season of our lives. You are what has kept me going. Thank you.
Eulogy for Nate
Nathanael (Nate) Peter Aasland was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 21, 1995 to Erik Aasland and Kim Alexander Aasland. At 4 months old, he moved to Kazakhstan with his parents and two- year-old sister Laura and they served there until 2011. Nate’s sister Linnea was born three years after him and his sister Naomi was born seven year after him. Nate’s name means “gift of God” and he truly was a gift to our family, his relatives, his friends, and all who knew him. He was known for his quiet thoughtfulness, his intellectual giftedness, his quick wit and his love of figuring out new and creative ways to “work the system.” At 15, Nate professed his faith in Jesus Christ and was baptized. Nate considered Kazakhstan his home and loved growing up there. Friends recall the numerous skits, spirit days, and other escapades during these years. He travelled many other places in the world including Australia, Germany, Switzerland, England, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. Nate attended Tien Shan International School from 2000-2011, with one year at Judson International School (2008-2009). He graduated from Maranatha High School with high honors in 2013, as a member of the National Honor Society and recipient of the Coaches Award on the cross-country team. Nate was incredibly focused and could achieve what he put he put his mind to, such as going from third string to varsity cross-country in the course of one year and teaching himself German to be able to test directly into German 2. However, he was also very humble, never wanting to talk about or display his awards and achievements. He studied at Westmont College from 2013-2015 where he had received a full scholarship having been named a Monroe Scholar. He also studied at Santa Barbara City College and Pasadena City College. He had a wide range of interests from History to Philosophy, Art, Linguistics and Mathematics. Nate loved his family and friends deeply and is very much loved by them. We miss him dearly and look forward to being reunited with him in heaven.