The power of the mind seen from the strength of a 4-year old boy and his mother
By Jay Lieberman
Nolan was only 4 years old when he was diagnosed with a rare aggressive cancer. But, that was just the beginning.
As a parent, I couldn’t begin to understand what it must have been like to hear those words come out of the doctor’s mouth. Frightening words like Metastatic Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, the type of cancer Nolan was stricken with.
I am constantly amazed by people’s resilience in the face of illness and their ability to push through. And continue on.
When things are bad, these folks get up. Go for walks. They work. They strive for happiness. They search and obtain gratitude.
And, even more amazing…they give back to others, typically more than before their illness.
They don’t stop.
All at a time when they are at their lowest and most painful point of their lives.
Sometimes, when there is no more time, when the body cannot heal anymore, the strength actually grows.
And Nolan and his mom are the purest example of this that I have ever witnessed in my entire life.
Nolan’s mom took him to the hospital one morning because she knew something was really wrong this time. He had been through hell with chemotherapy and treatments for the past months, but today was different. She could tell. He could not keep food down for days.
She met with his medical team and they didn’t believe his cancer could be stopped any longer. Fighting for so long, Nolan and his mother. Fighting for ‘their’ lives.
A fight a 4-year old little boy should never have to endure.
But, the incredible strength, love and compassion Nolan and his mother had for each other, two amazing Cancer Gladiators, was unaffected by the news. It grew stronger. More resilient.
These are Nolan’s mother’s words after the recent news from the doctors that day –
“After a while, I composed myself and went into Nolan’s room. He was sitting in ‘Mommy’s Red Chair’ watching YouTube on his Tablet. I sat down with him and put my head up against his and had the following conversation:
Me: Poot, it hurts to breathe doesn’t it?
Nolan: Weeeelll…. yeah.
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 DONT??!! 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 he was resting, as he slept most of the days after. We had Hospice on board, all his IV medications, even his DNR signed. (I cannot explain to you what signing an Emergency Responder “Do Not Resuscitate” order for your angelic son feels like.) When he woke up we had the van packed and I had his shoes in my hand to take him home for the evening. We just wanted ONE more night together.
But as he woke, 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 in between sleeping for the next 36 hours, we played, watched YouTube, shot Nerf Gun after Nerf Gun and smiled as many times as we could. An hour or so before he passed he even filled out a “Will”! 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.
About 9:00pm we were watching YouTube in bed (Peppa Pig actually) and I asked Nolan if I could get in the shower, as I was not allowed to leave him and Mommy had to be touching him at all times. He said, “Ummmm ok Mommy. Have Uncle Chris come sit with me and I’ll turn this way so I can see you”. 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. They said the moment the bathroom door clicked he shut his eyes and went into a deep sleep, beginning the end of life passing.
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. Then a miracle that I will never forget happened…
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.”
How does a 4-year old little boy muster up the ability, the will, the love, to protect his mother as he is passing away? Nolan only wanted his mother to be ok. He literally brought himself back for one last ‘I Love You’ to his mommy, so she would know it was alright.
Whenever I hear such an incredible story of strength in the face of what seems like impossible circumstances, I’m always left wondering, where does that kind of human strength come from?
It’s bigger than the age and experience of the person. Nolan was 4 years old. His mother was 34. He took care of her in the end.
I thought about this story for weeks. It drove me to read a couple books on the topic, as well. I finally had a realization.
This all has to be in the mind.
To me, the body is just a vehicle for the mind to live out its hopes and dreams.
When the body gets hurt, diseased, insides not working right, and it all slows down, the mind doesn’t follow suit. The mind continues to run at the same pace it had before. It will get frustrated with the body, maybe get depressed, anxious, fearful, or angry, as the body isn’t keeping up, but it continues onward.
The mind will work incredibly hard not to give up on the body. It will push the body to heal. To move. To get better. To get back to where it was before.
Because the mind has shit to do.
But, something miraculous happens when the body can no longer get back to where it was, as in Nolan’s case. When it has no more life remaining. The mind has the ability to change course. It will summon strength to shut out doubt, fear, pain and begin to protect those it loves around it, until the very end.
There is no other explanation for the miracle of Nolan reawakening for the simple last moment of his life, barely breathing…for his mother.
The mind has never been witnessed, felt or seen. We can’t put our finger on it.
It’s that “thing” that keeps us moving, living, striving for happiness. For love. Simply for normalcy at times. And compassion for others.
Some say the mind is G-d. Or it’s just the firing of neurons in our brain. Others believe it’s the voice of our past lives.
I don’t know about any of that, but I believe with all my heart that the mind is simply just “US.”
The real “US” inside where all of our hopes, dreams, visions, gratitude and happiness reside.
It’s the “US” that takes no shit and no prisoners when challenged.
The mind is our protector. Our guide. And the protector of others.
I know with all my heart that Nolan’s mind is out there still protecting his mom, waiting for her to arrive so they can play with his Nerf Gun yet again.
ABOUT THEM – Jay & Michelle Lieberman have been called “provocative and entertaining,” but also “committed philanthropists”. Entrepreneurs and relentless innovators of the real estate industry, creators of the “Value-Driven Approach to Sell Real Estate”, founders of the Conejo Valley Teacher Only Program, hosts of the Conejo Valley Advice Givers Podcast Show, and attorneys and real estate brokers at Keller Williams World Class in Southern California. They feel honored and blessed every day they are able to serve their clients, their family, friends and their community. You can reach them at info@TeamJayMichelle.com.