Monday, 8 April 2013

mourning with my children

It feels like the last week has passed in a foggy haze. Easter came too early this year, and I'm still not really there. I can identify with disciples who were walking around aimlessly, wondering what had happened to their friend and teacher. Right now I'm still not ready to believe in the miracle of the resurrection. Questions from my daughters ring in my ears: "why Jesus, but not Nolan? Why Lazarus, but not our friend?"

Mourning and celebrating the life of our dear friend Nolan has been heartbreaking and deeply moving. We are better people for knowing him and his inspiring family.

This has been a huge time of learning for our daughters and for us as parents. It was a teacher we didn't ask for: a friend who became sick with a terminal brain cancer - but it's the one we got, and we have certainly learned a lot of life lessons.

We have learned about the importance of visiting friends who may look and sound different than when we used to play with them at school.

We learned that you can care for people going through hard times by showing them you care, and by surrounding them with prayers. It's not an exaggeration to say that we have prayed for Nolan every day since we learned of his illness in September. Eden continues her prayers this week, praying that Nolan is having a good time with our guinea pig in heaven. His heroic journey has left a permanent mark on our whole family.

We learned that prayers can come in tangible forms. Our daughters and their friend gave a symbol of love by gifting Nolan with a prayer shawl in the fall. His mom told us that he kept this blanket very close, asking for it to come with him on his visits to the hospital. Prayers can come in the form of food and cards and messages of support and condolence. Today the girls wanted to pick out special beads to give to his family - ones that reminded them of Nolan.

We learned that it's ok to cry. Children learn, somehow, that they should keep their tears inside and not let others see them cry. We have done a lot of crying as a family: crying first for his illness, and then to mourn his death. We have cried in front of our church, and cried in front of friends and family. It's not just ok to cry; it's good to cry.

We learned that through this mourning, walls are broken down. Other parents of children our age, who were acquaintances before, become friends as we console each other in this time of deep pain. Teachers hug students, parents hug teachers, boundaries that are usually put up in the name of safety and professionalism fall down as we realize that we are all just humans grieving a great loss of a little boy.

We learned that others support you when you're grieving. Through hugs, phone calls, flowers, cards, and presence people show that they care that you are hurting. This is a powerful lesson of compassion.

We have learned about funerals: tributes, caskets, giving flowers, sharing photos, and remembering.

We learned that in this life we will experience pain, and that we can show God/love/tenderness to each other by supporting each other through that pain.

We learned that cancer is as close as your good friend in kindergarten.

We learned that a life can go on in the way that we live today. We know what things were important to Nolan. How can we pay tribute to these things in our own lives in an ongoing way?

We learned that grief comes and goes. We can't just cry once and be finished. Eden's teacher told me that for kids, grief is like puddle-jumping. They're in one moment, then out the next.

Eden's dragonfly and lily pad with names to remind her of loved ones who have died.
Great kids' book about dying that her Sunday school teacher read: Waterbugs and Dragonflies.

We learned that we live in a broken, grieving world where people are capable of boundless love and deep tenderness. That we need those things in large amounts in our world today. We need compassionate children and adults.

We learned that we can continue to remember.


  1. A painfully beautiful post, Rebecca. THank you for sharing it - so many insights we need to remember....
    I send you love, Melissa

  2. Thank you for sharing all that you have learned, how you remember Nolan, how you are working through this with your children and as a family. Have Eden or Zoe considered writing a story book about Nolan (not sure why this just came to mind) but in time, writing about their journey .... a way to continue remembering and a way to help others too. So many life lessons...sending hugs and love your way xo Shauna

    1. I love your idea of the book, Shauna. :)

  3. Beautifully written...