Friday, 29 March 2013

what Nolan taught me

Be careful of the friends your child lets into her heart. Because you just might find that they've made their way into your heart too. This doesn't sound like a bad thing, but today it hurts.

Our 6 year old friend Nolan, Eden's kindergarten boyfriend, was battling brain cancer. His journey ended Thursday night, the night before Good Friday.

On Ash Wednesday, I began the Lenten season by reading an early morning email from a strong mother, finding brave words to tell family and friends that her son might not live to see his 7th birthday in April. Hard words to read, let alone write.

Through these almost-40 days of Lent, I have cried many tears. For Nolan, for Nolan's mom and dad, for families who go through this dark hell. I have prayed, and cried out to God, and begged for his life.

And today, as I thought of Good Friday and brokenness and hopes dashed and lives cut short, I cried again. And tried to answer our daughters' questions of "why," but mostly my answers were "I don't know. It's not fair, and there is just no good explanation." I refuse to give them answers like "it was God's will" or "it was his time to die" because I just don't believe that. We live in a broken world, and sometimes life is very hard and truly unfair.

As we cried and hugged each other, I thought of all the lessons that Nolan taught me:

* to wonder and learn from nature, from creepy-crawly insects to red-eyed tree frogs to slippery snakes

* to fight for life, and defend it like the best hockey goalie around

* to pursue your dreams, like horseback riding, collecting bugs in Florida, and meeting great hockey players

* that Kitchener Rangers hockey games are a pile of fun to watch (we went last Friday to watch Nolan drop the puck to start the game)

* to think of others, gifting them with Valentine cards and Sea World stuffies

* to hold onto bits of life - to butterflies, to rays of sunlight through the window, to bright stars at night

* to stare dark monsters in the face and whisper, "Not a chance, monsters. Not a chance."

* that no matter what your age, you can affect countless people with your life

Nolan, we will never forget you - especially Eden. You stole her heart from the first day of Kindergarten. She admired you and called you a bug expert. Her goal for the year 2012 was to marry you, and you will always have a place in her heart. After all, how could she forget her first kiss in the line-up to the computer lab? You have taught us so much in your short life. Rest in God's care, Nolan.

Eden and Nolan in Kindergarten


  1. Rest with God, Nolan, with no more pain.
    You have impacted us all with your generosity, strength and courage.

    I learned alot from Nolan's mom too, about staring fear in the face and eating each moment we are given here on earth.

    1. I agree. Nolan's mom has inspired me too. I could write a whole post about things I learned from Mel.

  2. Thanks for sharing these reflections Rebecca. I've been crying tears for Nolan and his family this morning. And for Eden and Alice. What pain to have to experience at such a tender age.

    I found out last night that our neighbour (Mia's mom) was a childhood friend of Mel's - they went to school together from gr. 1 - 8. Nolan's story has certainly touched many, many people.

    1. Yes, he has touched many people. I keep thinking of the Shakespeare quote: "How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world."

  3. Oh, Rebecca, I am so sorry to hear about this today. I'm sad not only for you, but for your friend, her family, and also for your Eden. I am praying for you to have wisdom to help your daughter navigate this grief at such a tender age.

    I am with you on not wanting to hear Christian platitudes during times of suffering. They ring hollow. Just a couple months ago I came across this beautiful letter written by a mother who lost her son to a brain tumor at the age of four. Her perspective on God and her son's illness is refreshing (to me, anyway). You might find it that way, too.

    1. Thanks for this link, April. I agree with you on the hollow Christian platitudes that aren't helpful to me. I found the letter refreshingly honest.

  4. Oh, Rebecca - my heart goes out to Nolan's family and friends. WHY oh WHY?????

  5. I suppose it has been some time since I've looked at your blog Rebecca. Just saw/read your post about Nolan today.

    While I have been feelings of empathy for Nolan and his family during his struggle, seeing the picture of Nolan dropping the puck at the hockey game has brought a flood of bitter tears. The contrast between the healthy photo of Nolan with the bunny and his extremely swollen face at the hockey game pierces me. Just yesterday I was looking at a photo of Eli last June when he was at the peak of his prednisone treatments, and he is barely recognizable. It indeed screams injustice when tender children are violently assaulted by disease, disfigurement, and death. I personally can't think of a more sinister form of injustice at this point in my life. It hurts so much.

    For whatever reason I tend not to circle around to the question of "why" in the same way that other people do.

    What it does cause me to burn with again, though, is the fact that we live our lives in ignorance and separation from children that come to a similar fate every day in countries less fortunate then ours. 20,000 children every day, due to malnutrition and preventable diseases.

    This is why the notion of of spending church money on nicer carpet for even an AED (for ourselves), causes me to scream inside. I can't imagine the rage our God must feel when we neglect his children and willingly let them slip into the jaws of injustice so that we can continue to live our affluent life style.

    On the flip side, some of your learnings give me pause with respect to the thoughts I have just shared. How sad it is if our lament for others causes us to lose sight of the beautiful things in our own life. To wonder and learn from nature. To joyfully be together. To revel in imagination.

    How to hold in the balance these hard feelings of life with the sweet joys. Bitter sweet.

    1. Daniel,
      This is a beautiful reply. I echo your feelings of discomfort - spending money on ourselves when we know that others could use that money just to live. And you express so well that tension - of life's struggles and sweet joys. To keep others' laments in front of us, but to not miss out on wonder, imagination, joy.