Nolan Scully was only four years old when he died. He had been seriously ill, and doctors weren’t able to do anything more for him. But before he slipped away, he wanted to tell him mom something. And his poignant last words were nothing short of heartbreaking.
Back in November 2015, Ruth and Jonathan Scully, from Leonardtown, Maryland, got news that virtually any mother or father would dread. In short, their four-year-old son, Nolan, was given a terrifying diagnosis: he had a rare form of cancer.
And Nolan’s cancer, known as rhabdomyosarcoma, was affecting the soft tissue in his body. Doctors therefore told his parents that the boy needed to start a tough regime of treatment to fight the disease. This routine would include a 43-week schedule of grueling chemotherapy sessions as well as five and a half weeks of radiotherapy.
The first round of chemo, moreover, was “very rough on [Nolan’s] little body,” as his parents would write on the GoFundMe page they set up in order to help them pay for the treatment. Nolan’s mom and dad also described watching their son’s suffering as “the hardest thing in the world.”
And while Nolan kept fighting on throughout the treatment, the cancer was still attacking his body. As a result, the boy’s family were called in at the start of February 2017 to meet with his oncologist. The sadness in the specialist’s eyes said all they needed to know, however.
There, the doctor explained how a CT scan had revealed tumors that were compressing both Nolan’s bronchial tubes and heart. Ruth would later explain that the cancer had “spread like wildfire”; as a consequence, there wasn’t anything more that continued treatment could do for her son.
All there was left to do, then, was make sure that Nolan was kept comfortable. He was staying in a hospice by this point; the plan, however, was to let him have just one more night in the family home.
But the sick four-year-old told his mom that he wanted to stay put – and she respected his wishes. Over the next 36 hours, then, Nolan watched videos on YouTube and played with those closest to him. He even created a will of sorts for his family.
Heartbreakingly, Nolan also drew a picture of what he wanted his funeral to be like. He chose who he’d like to carry his coffin and told his parents what he thought the congregation should wear; he even made sure to tell his family that he’d like to remembered as a policeman.
And all the while, Nolan wanted his mom by his side. There was one instance in which he relented, however: when Ruth asked him if it was okay for her to have a shower, he agreed, on the condition that his uncle would sit with him instead. So, Nolan turned in the direction of the bathroom and watched his mom close the door.
As the door shut, though, Nolan closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep. And when his mom came out of the bathroom, she could see her son’s support team gathered around his bed. Naturally, it was a moment of high emotion.
The medical staff would go on to reveal that Nolan wasn’t able to feel anything; he was also having difficulty breathing because one of his lungs had collapsed. Without hesitating, his mom climbed into bed next to him.
And while Ruth knew she was going to lose her son soon, perhaps no-one could have predicted what happened next. In what Ruth would later describe as “a miracle,” Nolan opened his eyes again. He still had something he wanted to say to his mom.
So, Nolan turned his gaze towards his mother and uttered the poignant words, “I love you, mommy.” Then, just before midnight on February 7, 2017 – and with Ruth singing to him – little Nolan passed away.
And there’s little doubt that the four-year-old’s final words will be forever etched on his mom’s heart. In a touching Facebook post published two months after Nolan died, Ruth would go on to tell the world about her son’s last message; in the update, she also expressed the pain of losing him.
There, Ruth wrote, “[Nolan] woke up out of a coma to say he loved me with a smile on his face! My son died a hero. He brought communities together, different occupations, made a difference in people’s lives all around the world. He was a warrior who died with dignity and love to the last second.”
And the post, which would go viral, included two photographs. The first showed Nolan lying on a bath mat while his mom showered; the second image, however, featured the same mat but without Ruth’s son.
Ruth would go on to write in the Facebook post, “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.” The post itself, meanwhile, was shared over 700,000 times.
And Ruth made a post on the social media site not only to pay tribute to her brave “hero” of a son, but to also spread awareness of her son’s aggressive cancer. She commented that Nolan didn’t get to live a long life and so called for the world to “do better with funding research and treatment options.”
The mom continued, “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.” And through her, Nolan’s legacy as a brave little policeman continues to live on.