It was unexpected. Grandson of my sister and husband, Don and Berneita Smucker, eight-yea-old Nolan was a happy vigorous child, yet he collapsed and died quickly January 14, 2010. Words are not enough to comfort the loss of a loved one; however, the words of Rich Troyer, the youth pastor of their family’s church and who lives across the street from the Lawsons, helped.
A TIME TO REMEMBER AND CELEBRATE THE LIFE OF
NOLAN DOUGLAS LAWSON
February 10, 2001—January 14, 2010
Middlebury Church of the Brethren
Monday, January 18, 2010
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Though the earth should change,
Though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
Be still and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.
The Lord of hosts is with us,
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11
Last week was a tough week for our world. Tuesday brought news of an earthquake that devastated the island country of Haiti. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives in that horrific moment and its aftermath. For many of us the news of the earthquake brought grief and pain as we watched events unfold on television of the death and destruction our neighbors to the south experienced.
And then, less than 48 hours after the Haitian earthquake shook the world, there was another earthquake, one that struck more close to home, one that shook many of us to our foundations. The news of Nolan Douglas Lawson’s unexpected and sudden death on Thursday sent shockwaves through our community. We didn’t want to believe the news, we still don’t want to believe the news, but that news is our new reality.
And we gather here this morning as parents, siblings, classmates, teachers, and friends to encourage and support one another because our world has changed. The mountains have shaken into the heart of the sea, its waters now roar and foam from the tumult, from the pain of our hearts as we say goodbye to an incredible little boy who touched so many lives.
We have gathered here this morning to pay our respects and to celebrate the life Nolan Douglas Lawson lived among us. We are grateful this morning for the life Nolan led and for being able to share in this brief life with him.
We have gathered here this morning to give comfort and support to Nolan’s family, Dave, Keli, Chandler and Hunter who must now carry on without an important and beloved member of their family. We have gathered here to support and comfort one another and to draw on the resources of our faith in God. This will be a time when we can face our loss, express our grief, and take consolation in God’s unending and unchanging love. It is a time where we can cry together, laugh together and remember and honor the passion with which Nolan lived.
We have gathered here this morning to remember that God is with us. That God walks with us in times of darkness and despair. And that God indeed is our strength and our refuge in times of trouble.
Reflections on Nolan’s Life
Nolan Douglas Lawson, 8, of 313 Bluebird Lane Middlebury, died Thursday (Jan. 14, 2010) in Elkhart General Hospital. His death was very unexpected.
Nolan was born Feb. 10, 2001, in Elkhart to David and Keli (Smucker) Lawson. He was a third-grader at Middlebury Elementary School and very active at the Boys & Girls Club in Middlebury.
Nolan’s parents survive along with one sister, Chandler Nichole Lawson, and one brother, Hunter David Lawson, both at home; and his grandparents, Don and Berneita Smucker of Middlebury, and Emery and Margaret (“Peach”) Lawson of Cassopolis, Mich.
Nolan was a very active child and enjoyed playing outside, especially in the snow, listening to the music on his I-pod, playing with Legos and his Wii video system. He was a fan of McDonald’s, Star Wars and the Mac and Cheese at the Village Inn Restaurant. He loved to play with his dog, Marley.
He was known for making friends very easily because everybody liked Nolan.
I always think there is too little information in an obituary column. There is no way you can squeeze very much information about a person’s life into that small a space in a newspaper column. How do you condense a lifetime of information, even a shortened life, into a few sentences and paragraphs in the newspaper?
For many people this is all they will ever know about Nolan Lawson. That’s a shame too because this little boy lived, he really lived his life.
The obituary says Nolan was an active child, those of us who knew him know that is an understatement.
I can tell you I never ever saw Nolan walk anywhere, he went full speed everywhere he went. Down the halls here at church, down the street he lived on, running in his yard, playing with his dog, Marley, he never walked but always ran. Just last Wednesday night, as he and his friend Addison came to dinner here at the church, Nolan raced by me barely slowing down enough to growl at me as he passed by me dodging my outstretched hand that begged for a quick high five.
In fact the slowest I ever saw Nolan move was when he was in his electric truck that he drove up and down his driveway and one time decided he wanted to take around the block. He made it about half way before the battery gave out and then Chandler, who had been walking along patiently, as she always seemed to do with Nolan, Chandler ended up pushing the truck the rest of the way around the block while Nolan kept telling her he wanted to go faster. Nolan always wanted to go fast.
When Nolan wasn’t trying to move fast he was busy creating something, whether it was with Lego’s or Tinker Toys or Duct tape and card board, he was always creating something in his basement lair of the house or up in his room.
The newspaper said Nolan had siblings. What it doesn’t tell you is that he and his brother Hunter were inseparable and best friends. Watching them was like watching two puppies playing together, tussling with each other, giggling non-stop. It doesn’t tell you that he and his sister were together all the time. Nolan loved to be with Chandler and her friends when they would come to the house. And he wasn’t a nuisance like some little brothers can be, but was a welcome addition to the group most of the time.
The Newspaper doesn’t say anything about Nolan’s many looks. He loved to dress up for spirit days at school (I understand 60’s day was a favorite because he could be a hippy), he loved to dress up especially if that meant he got to do something with his hair to complete the look, crazy hair day was a day he really looked forward to at school. I heard plenty of comments yesterday at the viewing about Nolan’s hair being too combed.
One fashion statement I wasn’t aware of until meeting with Nolan’s family on Friday was that he didn’t like pants, he’d wear them when he had to, but as soon as he got inside the door of the house pants became optional and usually ended up in a ball someplace on the floor and he would run the house in his Harley Davidson boxers. I’m guessing pants are optional in heaven as well for Nolan and he’s busy showing off those boxers now.
How could you talk about Nolan’s looks and not mention his unique ability to fold his ears. As I walked up the stairs to his classroom on Friday, there on the wall was a picture Nolan had drawn for an assignment where he was supposed to say something unique about himself. Nolan’s picture said simply “I can fold my ears”.
Keli told me it was something Nolan could do from the time he was a baby, he would get fussy and fold his ears. When she asked the pediatrician about it, she was told Nolan would only be able to do this for a short time, but he proved the pediatrician wrong and was able to do it his whole life long.
And he knew it was something that would get a good laugh. Miss Van Elk, his teacher this year, told me Nolan would often color his hands green and then tuck in his ears and walk up to her desk with this silly look on his face and say “Hello Miss Van Elk” or something silly like that. Or if she was having a bad day she would ask Nolan to come over to her desk and to fold in his ears. Nolan would oblige her and then puff up his cheeks and pretend to blow them out.
And that above almost everything else is what made Nolan special, not that he could fold his ears, but that he could make people smile. He had the gift, the ability to cheer you up with a look or a smile. It didn’t matter what age you were, he could make you smile and laugh because you could sense in him the passion he had for life, and the love he had for people. Everyone loved Nolan because Nolan loved everyone, he was your friend regardless of who you were. And if you were feeling down he flashed those baby blue eyes and his mischievous smile and it didn’t matter what was bothering you, you would end up smiling.
The stories could go on for a while, but I want to finish by telling you about Nolan’s last day at school. Miss Van Elk told me Thursday morning was the best morning in her classroom. Everything was going well, they had a spelling test they took and Nolan finished the test while some of the other students were doing something different.
We won’t dwell on the grade he got on his spelling test, but after the test was over Miss Van Elk asked Nolan if he wanted to give the rest of the class their spelling words. Nolan quickly said sure. Then she isn’t sure why she said this, but she asked Nolan if he wanted to sit in her chair.
Now you need to understand that Miss Van Elk’s chair is off limits. Whenever a student would ask if they could sit in her chair she would say, “when you graduate from college you can sit in my chair.” And Nolan reminded her of the rule, “I haven’t graduated from college yet Miss Van Elk.” She told him that was ok, today she would make an exception.
Nolan sat in that chair and beamed as he read the class their spelling words. He was on top of the world. Whenever he would get off task, which was often, Miss Van Elk would tease him and get him back to giving the spelling test. After the test was over and as the class got ready to go to Phys Ed, they listened to the soundtrack of the Squeakuell and danced around the room. I imagine Nolan was doing some great dance moves that morning.
And they walked out the door and went down the steps to Phys Ed, giggling, laughing, with a song in their hearts. And then our world changed.
You know I said earlier I didn’t see how you could fit so much life into a short space, but Nolan did just that. He may have only had a little over 8 years and 11 months on this earth, but he packed a whole lot of living in that small span of time. Nolan Douglas Lawson lived life fully, he loved everyone, and he made us better people by knowing him.