The majority of people will be lucky enough to be spared the moment we realize that our lives are coming to an inevitable end. It might not be unexpected, per se, if we manage to live to a ripe old age, but we’ll never know for sure when Death is going to appear and beckon us on to whatever comes next.

I imagine there’s a blessing and a curse in being able to properly say goodbye, but that goes double (or far more) for a young child who has barely gotten any time on this side of alive.

It’s hard to think about how a 4-year-old boy processes the fact that he’s going to die – that he’s losing his battle with a rare cancer – but that’s exactly what happened to Nolan Skully and his family after a long fight with Rhabdomyosarcoma.

Like any child, Nolan had dreams for his adult life. He wanted to be a police officer and to serve along firefighters, like his father, in the community. He was sworn in as an honorary officer before his death.

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 👮🏻

He also managed to comfort his mother, who was doing her best to keep it together, by telling her that he knew everything would be okay – that he would get to heaven and just play while he waited for her to join him.

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!!

Y’all, as a mother of two boys, I’m bawling.

I have no idea how parents survive ordeals like this one, but to be able to share such a story of light and faith and hope at a time that has to be the darkest of their lives is really something else.