Musings + Essays

In Memoriam N.R.

By: Jen Shoop

Last week, I learned that a close former colleague of mine had died in a freak skiing accident. I was running errands and my former boss called and asked whether I could pull my car over. I’m relieved he did. I sat in my car on a quiet street in Mohican Hills attempting to be polite and consoling in the face of the news, and then he said: “Let me know if you need to talk. I’m holding a space for you,” and a sob involuntarily rose in my throat. I stumbled and sputtered my way through something about what a horrific loss it was, and then I hung up and wept.

I personally hired Nate when he was a few years out of college and he was my right-hand man during my tenure as CIO of a small non-profit focused on building the financial health of low-income teens. He was bright, inexperienced, and impossibly idealistic, as we all were. I remember sitting across from him at Lula Cafe in Logan Square, Chicago, at the final round of the interview process, needling him about how much he wanted the job. He was never without a smile, and that made him difficult to read. He pulled out a small notebook and gestured to a cluster of pages on which he’d kept notes about the position and his thoughts on its requirements. “Yes,” he nodded. “I want this job.” I could see it was true. I was moved by his evident care and seriousness in thinking about the role. Anyone who took the time to transfer thoughts to paper, to document some of his own ideas, with no assurance as to whether he would get the job, was going to be a perfect fit for our scrappy, moonshot organization. I offered him the position on the spot.

I have thought about that afternoon, and especially the elegant presence of those notes in his notebook, many times over the past week. We shared countless other hilarious and frustrating and wonderful memories together working to build a smartphone application designed to promote the saving habits of high school students, but I think mainly of that exchange, of the way I thought to myself: “This is a person I want to work closely with.” He was a joy in the office: upbeat, determined, curious, creative, funny. We approached problems differently, and I learned a lot about myself because of the delta between us. He was contemplative and thorough and I was intuition-driven and immediate. I would ply him with false claims of urgency, and, ever the good sport, he would comply. On the occasions he wouldn’t, I learned the most. “But why do we need it done this way?” he would ask, and I would nod my head as if divining a truth that hadn’t yet materialized, and then we’d figure out a different path forward together. It was exciting to work with him. I have managed many young staff members in my time but never someone who knew so well when and how to push back in a productive way — in a way that felt committed to the cause rather than retributive or gainful or oppositional for the sake of being oppositional. And that was Nate: mission-driven, inquisitive in all the right ways, a man for others.

I have returned to the specifics of my memories of Nate with urgency the past week, straining to remember even what his handwriting looked like, because I otherwise have been battling tremendous regret that I did not keep in better touch with him the last few years, and I am put off by my own selfishness in this regard. His death is not about me. His death is a loss, acute and caustic. He was bright and thought-filled and passionate and I know there are many friends and family members who are grieving profoundly at this very moment. I speculated elsewhere on the troubling concept that grief can have uses. I absolutely riot against that notion today.


Nate, you are remembered. I write your name to hold a space for you.

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12 thoughts on “In Memoriam N.R.

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss, Jen. Sometimes I really think that the old adage “only the good die young” might really be true. In the wake of a loss of a childhood friend in my late teens, I often referred to these words of reassurance my mother offered me in a text on what would’ve been his twenty-first birthday a few years ago:
    “I understand – sometimes your heart just hurts about stuff and it just takes time to work thru – until it rears its ugly head again. Hang in there and know it’s ok to be sad sometimes.” I copied and pasted her exact words and even wrote down the date, 9.13.20. I reread her text when I grieve and find comfort from it, and I hope you might too.

    1. Hi there – I am so sorry for your loss, too. I know acutely the pain of losing a childhood/teen friend and completely empathize. I am still processing that loss to be honest, and she’s been gone for over a decade.

      Anyway – thank you for the kind note, and wise words. I completely agree with your mom that part of the process is giving ourselves permission to “just be sad sometimes.” Thank you for writing in!


  2. Thank you for writing this. Nate was one of my close friends and his loss has been intense. Any scrap I can get of him, any new insight into who he was is a gift. As such I so appreciate being able to see your perspective of him in the workplace – it fits!

    1. Hi Eli – I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. I wish I’d had the wherewithal to let Nate know how highly I thought of him while he was alive but instead, I’ll just pass it along to you and his other close friends. He was a bright light! I feel lucky to have known him.

      Thinking of you and the rest of his friends — this is hard.


  3. Thank you so much for writing this post. I counted Nate amongst my closest friends and it’s so wonderful to read about how much of an impact he made in your life. I never worked with Nate – I was his roommate in the days before MT but it’s a joy to see some of the qualities that I admired and loved most about Nate reflected in your post.

    1. Hi Souvik — Thank you so much for this note. I am happy this post made its way, through the curious magic of the Internet, to some of his best friends. It is wonderful to rally around shared memories — perhaps, in a small way, its own kind of therapy. I have had occasion over the last week to connect with fellow Moneythink colleagues about Nate and everyone has shared similar stories of admiration for him.

      I am so sorry for your loss. Thinking of you during this extremely challenging time.


  4. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Thank you for sharing this intimate tribute with your readers <3

    I'd like to share with you verses from Whitman that I always return to in times like these. I don't know that they're consoling, exactly, but they stir something within me. It's section 6 of "Song of Myself," linked here:

    Hoping you find sprouts soon.

    1. Hi Susie – Thank you for sharing these lines. I have read Song of Myself multiple times but this very much read differently today. Thank you.


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