Where does courage come from?
I am not sure it was ever something I learned as a sit-down lesson. Of course, the best lessons are never those learned while sitting. (Ask any of my students!) The best lessons are those learned without a lesson – the ones that are modeled for purpose (or not).
Anyone who knew my Mom and Dad would agree that they were people of great strength and fortitude. They endured countless trials and tribulations – more than the average couple would have had to endure. Between heart-aches, loss, physical challenges, and emotional challenges – they had plenty.
My Mom face many challenges – she met them head on. When her sister, Anne, was ill with Jakob – Creutzfeldt’s Disease, Mom kept vigil over her and then took responsibility for her daughter, Pam, for years afterwards. When her own mother was dying from liver cancer, Mom fed her, changed her and kept vigil over her. Whenever there was a health concern or emotional concern, Mom was right there. She herself lost two full-term babies. I have never even mis-carried let alone lose two babies. I cannot imagine the pain – and then having to deliver one of them only one week short of its due date! “Baby Duff” was buried somewhere in a cemetery in Alberta – Mom was never able to visit the grave – never able to trace the little one. Yet – she persisted on trying to have a family — and succeeded. She poured her life into my brother, my sisters and I. Her children always came first – and then when grand-children came along — well, they were the apples of her eye. Even when Mom was dying in the hospital – she was my mentor. “I will always be with you, Stacey… in your heart.” She was fearless. I never felt her fear of dying – only my fear of life without my Mom.
My Dad also faced many challenges. He fought in World War II, survived cancer, lost his thumb and finger to a wood – splitter, survived a stroke, and lived with Parkinson’s Disease for more than 10 years. The biggest challenge, however, was the morning after Mom passed away. Dad did not want to get out of bed. He was devastated. The love of his love was gone – he was physically disabled and 89 years old. Most of his friends had already passed away and he was left alone – – of course save for his children. It was a lonely life for him. There was no one left to share memories with – he was the older living person of his era. “I have nothing to get out of bed for, Stacey.” Dad explained to me. He and I both cried. I got it. I couldn’t accept it.
“Dad – you have to get out of bed for me. I need you. You are still my Dad.” I pleaded.
He did it – he got out of bed. I will never forget that moment. I don’t even want to imagine what he felt. But he did it. He was empty, wounded, and tired. But, he got up out of bed.
I think back to that day often. I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing that I imposed myself on him? I know he got out of bed for me – he was my father and he knew it. He never abandoned me – no matter how weak or sad he was – he was present for me and for my brother. That — took courage.
I did not learn courage during a sit-down lesson. My parents were the best teachers I have ever had. I watched them – until the day they died. The lessons I learned from them were ones they could never articulate. They modeled integrity, gratitude, and courage. I learned from them.