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Murphy Funeral Homes

4510 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA

OBITUARY

Nathan Everett Fleming

September 20, 2001September 28, 2019
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Nathan was one of a kind. A great soul, wise beyond his years. Loving and kind, funny, smart, interesting, easy-going, a little bit goofy and always positive. The kid who gently and patiently helped care for younger children. The student who loved his physical therapy class and wanted to start a career in medicine. The sharp-shooter, Tolkien fan, accomplished gamer, tenacious soccer defender and flag-football champion. The cancer patient who bore so much, never wanted his disease to define him, shunned pity and made all the doctors and nurses laugh. The loving son and brother. And so he will remain.

Nathan was loved more than words can say by his father, Mike, mother Michele, step-mother Salma and especially his big brother Spencer, who withdrew from college to help care for him. His grandmother, Lala, spent the last six weeks with him, trying each day to help him live. His dogs Milo, Buck, Stoney, Parker and Major Tom adored him. His grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins knew what an exceptional person he was, and all shuddered to imagine a world without him. He was loved immensely and offered a heart full of love himself. All will miss him dearly.

Perhaps most of all, Nathan was incredibly brave and resilient. In middle school, when his best friend tripped on the steps and a porcelain cereal bowl broke, bizarrely severing his friend's artery, Nathan calmly applied pressure and called 911. His friend almost bled out, but survived by a whisker. EMTs came to the door a few days later and reported that if Nathan had panicked, even for a minute, his friend certainly would have died. They said he was a life saver, a hero. All in a day's work.

He approached his illness the same way. He endured – with more grace than any would have thought possible – a year of grueling treatment, complications and aggressive, relentless cancer. He should have been selecting a college and enjoying his last year of high school, but instead had to complete his academic requirements at home, earning his diploma on time in June of 2019. He remained positive and a joy to be around throughout his struggle. As just one example, when his mom complained bitterly that his cancer was evil, he disagreed: “Look, it made me lose 50 pounds of fat!” Humor in the face of adversity. Classic Nathan.

The only good thing that can be said about cancer is that it doesn't kill you instantly. It allows some time – at least for the courageous – to laugh, love, and speak those words that too often go unsaid. Nathan was granted time, and he made the best of it. He chose to live and to keep loving. He chose to laugh rather than to cry. He chose to grit his teeth and endure. His life was cut cruelly short, but he accomplished much. None who knew him well will ever forget him.

We also know that Nathan will live on. He'll be with us forever, manifest in a thousand different ways. In our memories, in our hearts, in our attempts to match his courage against our own adversity. In the sparkle of a star and the beauty of a sunset, Nathan will abide. No day will pass devoid of memory or sign of his existence. As in a hushed forest after the crash of a great tree, we'll know unmistakably that he existed, that he enriched our lives, and that he endures.

Services

  • Gathering of Family and Friends Saturday, October 5, 2019
  • Memorial Service Saturday, October 5, 2019
  • Gathering of Family and Friends Saturday, October 5, 2019

Memories

Nathan Everett Fleming

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Salma B

October 14, 2019

When Nathan did a speech for school, he taught me to be mindful of the clock. I wanted to introduce myself and say a few words about Nathan and our relationship. I have known Nathan for 9 years and lived with him the past 4 years.

To say that Nathan was no trouble at all would be an understatement. This is not idealization of a child with illness like Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol. We thought this of Nathan before his diagnosis.

No, I did not worry about Nathan’s character in the least. But I did worry about the rest of the world getting to him. You know, like when you hear a siren in the distance or hear of something terrible happening in your community through your fancy smart doorbell, you think, “Where are the kids? Are they safe?”

For the rest of your life, when you wake up in the middle of the night and you wonder, “Oh my God. Where is Nathan? Is he safe?” there are two answers. First, if you are a believer, then you know where Nathan is and that he is safe. And second, if you don’t believe, I think you still know where Nathan resides - in your heart, also safe.

Nathan was the best of where he came from. Nathan had a midwestern even tempered temperament, an instantly likeable southern charm and welcoming personality … all packaged in a sarcastic teenager with east coast sensibilities. He was one of my favorite people. To say I will miss him during my time on this earth almost doesn’t make sense. I can’t conceive being here without someone so much a part of my life and so much the reason I did anything at all.

I cannot explain theodicy, certainly not while adhering to Nathan’s advice to watch the clock. I only know that bad things do happen to the best of people. But I can finish as I began - with something Nathan taught me through his example. I encourage you to face your enemy, your grief and your anguish, head on with bravery and honesty. Be courageous like Nathan and for Nathan.
Nathan. He was the best of us, made up of the best of us.

Mike Fleming

October 14, 2019

We have an acronym in my house. WWND. Faced with a challenge we ask , “What would Nathan do?” It will usually steer you right.

Nathan was wise beyond his years (if perhaps silly beyond even his wisdom). Seldom would Nathan offer poor advice. This goofy kid, somehow, saw through the clutter of daily life with the clarity of a Buddhist monk approaching transcendence. He always knew what was important, and what was just noise.

Pasta or salmon tonight? WWND? Put salmon on top of the pasta and you're good!

Go have fun or stay back and help out the younger kids. WWND? Take care of the little ones, of course.

Go for the max radiation dose even though you'll probably lose vision in one eye, or play it safe? WWND? Definitely go to the max, you can always order a bionic eye later!

Staying home to be Nathan's caregiver wasn't a burden for me. It was a privilege. Every moment with him brought joy. From when he threw his nasty vegetables at me from his high chair, laughing his infectious laugh. To the time we swam with the dolphins in Florida. Or the time we watched the fireworks in Atami, Japan. Or when we told ghost stories by the camp fire at Deep Creek Lake, worrying that the bears were moving in, ever closer. Or when he received a scholarship offer of 22.5 thousand dollars a year from a private college, and with perfect comedic timing at the dinner table asked, “Well, did anybody else come up with 90 grand today?” Or just hanging out and doing nothing. Together. Which was at least as fun as the great adventures that we had.

I choose to remember this happiness that he brought. I choose not to mourn the years he didn't have, but to celebrate the time that we did have, the fun and the love. I elect to appreciate all of the ways, small and large, in which he enriched our lives, and will continue to do so. So as I ask myself now, what would Nathan do, the answer is clear to me. Nathan would live, love and laugh. Nathan would endure. And so should we.

Barb & Mickey Watts

October 14, 2019

To Michele, Mike and Spencer,
We were devastated to hear the news of Nathan’s passing and we’ve spent the past several days sharing stories, laughing, crying and praying for your family.
I am honored to have played a part in Nathan’s first years. When I think of Nathan, I see him smiling and hear him laughing. He was such a sweet and tender hearted child. When another child was in time-out or would be upset and crying, little Nathan would pucker up and cry along with them.
He was tuned into others – seeming to sense when you were having a rough day – he’d come over and rest his head on my knee, look up and smile with that sweet little face and then toddle back to the playroom with his friends. How could your day not improve when Nathan was around?!
Nathan, Spencer and their buddies (Bretton and Bryan) were especially creative and entrepreneurial during the 17-year cicada emergence in summer of 2004. They collected sticks and cicada shells to create, as Molly immediately recalled, “BUG WORLD” for the other children to visit in the backyard. Nathan manned the entrance gate/collecting the “money” – and in this case, money DID grow on trees as leaves were the accepted currency to visit BUG WORLD. It was fun to see them use their creative minds and collaborative skills even though there was a yard full of toys to play with.
Nathan was always eager to interact with his friends, he loved ALL his friends at daycare, especially his big brother, Spencer.
Spencer was very protective of his baby brother and Nathan, in return, idolized his big brother. They were inseparable so it did not surprise me at all to learn that Spencer had taken leave from college to be home to help care for Nathan during his illness. Theirs is an unbreakable bond. Spencer, I’m so proud of you!!
From the beginning, Nathan was a sweet and special child – he made the world a better place in every way. And, until my last breath, I will hear his laughter and I pray you all will as well.

Gary Karton

October 4, 2019

I was fortunate to coach Nathan in flag football. What I remember most is not that he helped us win a championship (his dad had to remind me). It's that Nathan was compassionate, caring and always kind. What great gifts to share with our team and the world.

Kathy Fleming

October 4, 2019

Nathan you were taken from us way before your time. You are loved by many people. May you fly high and have fun with Mark, Lauren, and Grandma Mary Lou. I love you always and forever. I will honor you every day. Xo Aunt Kathy Fleming

Jami Fleming kidd

October 4, 2019

Nathan. You are the bravest, strongest person I know. If only we could all face our adversities the way you faced your cancer with bravery and humor. I remember you as a little boy when we all met at Deep Creek Lake for a family reunion. I remember you as the young adult when you came to Alissa and Caelyn's weddings. Not ever did I dream that I would be saying goodbye to you tomorrow. I know that Uncle Mark was there to welcome you into Paradise like he said he would while he was dying from cancer. I know Grandma and Lauren were both there too and that gives me some comfort.

Mike, Michele, Spencer and Salma. I know how much you loved Nathan and Nathan knows that too. I’m sooo sorry and no words can take away your pain. Nathan will be with you forever, in your hearts and memories. ❤️❤️ Nathan, May you fly high with the angels and watch over us all.