I don’t understand courage. I don’t know what it is, or where it comes from.
I can’t understand the strength that some people are able to find inside themselves when that strength is desperately needed.
I don’t know how some of my students can find the bravery and fortitude to come to school every single day, knowing that they won’t have friends, won’t understand the directions, won’t be included in the jokes.
I don’t know where they find the strength of heart to come in and do the lunch count. I don’t know how they manage to sit at their desks and open their notebooks. How they dare to raise their hands or turn in their work. I am in awe.
I don’t understand the strength of heart that I see in my brother-in-law or my Uncle as they face the slow, inexorable declines that come with their diagnoses. I don’t know how they smile, make jokes, dance with their daughters, laugh at their nieces, hug their wives and just go on living while they still have life. I am in awe.
And I cannot even begin to understand the strength and the courage that it would take for a young man to stand up at the wedding of his dear friend so that he could make a toast to a life well lived, knowing that he is in the last weeks of his own. Where does this kind of courage live? Where does it hide itself? Is it latent somewhere inside all of us, ready to arise when it is needed?
I fear that when and if I am faced with my own mortality, I will be less filled with grace, and more with anger. I don’t know that I could stand up in front of a hundred people, some beloved, some known, some strangers, and find a way to tell each of them that life is a precious gift, not to be squandered. I don’t know that I could gracefully and kindly tell the story of my life and death in order to help others to embrace that gift. I don’t know that I could joke and laugh and dance and drink if I knew that this party would be my last.
I am in awe.
And I’m acutely aware of the fact that the only real honor that I can give to those courageous people is to live my life with at least a little bit of courage. At least a tiny bit of grace and strength. I’ll try to laugh at my own weaknesses, and embrace my own blessings. I’ll try to square my shoulders and march into the fray with a smile.
Truly. I am in awe.