As a parent, there is absolutely nothing more unimaginable than suffering the death of a child. We have one job when these sweet little humans come wide-eyed into this world, and that is to protect them. For so many parents, though, their little one’s lives are cut short and a piece of their heart is permanently ripped out.
That’s a feeling Ruth Scully knows well, and wouldn’t wish on anyone.
The mother of three from Leonardtown, Maryland, lost her five-year-old son, Noah, in February after an 18-month battle with rhabdomyosarcoma—a cancer that develops in the skeletal muscles.
It’s been two months since Nolan passed away on February 4. Ruth took to the Nolan Strong Facebook page to recount the final days she had with her son:
“Two months. Two months since I’ve held you in my arms, heard how much you loved me, kissed those sweetie “pie” lips. Two months since we’ve snuggled. Two months of pure absolute Hell.”
Ruth admits she’s been wanting to write about those days and the precious moments she’s held captive in her heart for a while. But understandably, it’s seemed impossible.
“His last few days shined with how amazing my son is. How beautiful he is. How he was made of nothing but pure love.”
The last time she took Nolan to the hospital was February 1—four days before he passed away.
It’s incredible what kids pick up on, and their discernment in adult-like situations. Ruth says she knew something deeper was wrong with Nolan that day, and “strange enough,” she thinks he knew too.
She explains that their visit with the doctor that day ended up being a visit with Nolan’s ENTIRE medical team.
“When his Oncologist spoke, I saw the pure pain in her eyes. She had always been honest with us and fought along side of us the whole time, but his updated CT scan showed large tumors that grew compressing his bronchial tubes and heart within four weeks of his open chest surgery.”
His cancer was “spreading like wildfire,” and doctors had concluded that it had become resistant to all treatment options.
“The plan would be to keep him comfortable as he was deteriorating rapidly.”
Ruth knew at that point that her baby was going to die. It was only a matter of time.
She spent some time trying to wrap her head around the idea of life without Nolan as best as she could before composing herself and heading in to see her sweet little boy.
How do you explain death to your child who is about to die?
In his room, Nolan was sitting in “mommy’s red chair,” with his tablet. Moments later, the two of them were curled up next to each other, having a conversation Ruth will never forget:
Me: Poot, it hurts to breathe doesn’t it?
Me: You’re in a lot of pain aren’t you, baby?
Nolan: (looking down) Yeah.
Me: Poot, this Cancer stuff sucks. You don’t have to fight anymore.
Nolan: (Pure Happiness) I DON’T??!! But I will for you Mommy!!
Me: No Poot!! Is that what you have been doing?? Fighting for Mommy??
Nolan: Well DUH!!
Me: Nolan Ray, what is Mommy’s job?
Nolan: To keep me SAFE! (With a big grin)
Me: Honey…I can’t do that anymore here. The only way I can keep you safe is in Heaven. (My heart shattering)
Nolan: Sooooo I’ll just go to Heaven and play until you get there! You’ll come right?
Me: Absolutely!! You can’t get rid of Mommy that easy!!
Nolan: Thank you Mommy!!! I’ll go play with Hunter and Brylee and Henry!!
The next day was full of paperwork and getting things in order. Nolan slept most of the day while Ruth arranged hospice care, all of his medications and even his DNR.
“I cannot explain to you what signing an Emergency Responder “Do Not Resuscitate” order for your angelic son feels like.”
Everything was set for Nolan to go home and for their family to have just ONE more night together. But when he woke, Nolan was once again concerned only about his mama.
“He gently put his hand on mine and said, ‘Mommy, it’s ok. Let’s just stay here ok?’ My 4-year-old Hero was trying to make sure things were easy for me.”
So they stayed, and Ruth says that the next 36 hours were filled with play time, YouTube, shooting nerf guns and as many smiles as possible—in between Nolan’s long stretches of sleep. The five-year-old even wrote up a “will,” and planned his funeral.
“We laid in bed together and he sketched out how he wanted his funeral, picked his pall bearers, what he wanted people to wear, wrote down what he was leaving each of us, and even wrote down what he wanted to be remembered as…which of course was a Policeman”
Around 9 p.m. on Nolan’s final day here on earth, Ruth asked him if she could take a shower. He reluctantly said yes, then positioned himself so that he could see her when she came out.
“I stood at the bathroom door, turned to him and said, ’Keep looking right here, Poot, I’ll be out in two seconds.’ He smiled at me. I shut the bathroom door.”
Ruth details the final moments of her son’s life, saying that after she closed the bathroom door, Nolan shut his eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
“When I opened the bathroom door, his team was surrounding his bed and every head turned and looked at me with tears in their eyes. They said, “Ruth, he’s in a deep sleep. He can’t feel anything.” His respirations were extremely labored, his right lung had collapsed and his oxygen dropped.
I ran and jumped into bed with him and put my hand on the right side of his face.”
As she did this, God gave Ruth a miracle—one last gift from Nolan.
“My angel took a breath, opened his eyes, smiled at me and said, ‘I love you, mommy,’ turned his head towards me and at 11:54 pm Sgt. Rollin Nolan Scully passed away as I was singing ‘You Are My Sunshine’ in his ear.”
Ruth says her son died a hero. He used his last breath to ensure he was protecting those he loved. He took on the “job” of his mom and dad—rather than letting them protect him and keep him safe, Nolan only ever concerned himself with taking care of others.
“All Nolan ever wanted to do was to serve and protect others, he did just that all the way up to his last breath and continues to do so every day. He loved his family fiercely and every one of his ‘friends!’”
Like any mother, Ruth only wishes her son could have had more time, and that she could have seen the amazing hero he would grow up to be.
She says now even the smallest things serve as a constant reminder of the emptiness that consumes so much of her heart and life.
“My son was terrified to leave my side, even as I showered. Now I’m the one terrified to shower. With nothing but an empty shower rug now where once a beautiful perfect little boy laid waiting for his Mommy.”
Ruth says her hope is that funding and research would lead to a cure for childhood cancer.