Over the last twenty-two months people have, from time to time, called me brave. While it is a nice thing to be described as, I must admit it always strikes me as a bit strange because I don’t feel brave. In fact, ever since I lost Maddie I have far too often felt the opposite – weak, scared, and lost.
So how could anyone possibly see me as brave?
Brave people do things. They don’t have things done to them, but that is precisely why I have been called brave – because something happened to me. I’ve never ran into a burning building, tried to defuse a bomb, or, like the subject of the film “127 Hours,” had to do something that seems impossible to imagine. For those of you unfamiliar with the film (which is nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards), it tells the true story of Aron Ralston who, while hiking in a remote part of Utah, became trapped under an eight hundred pound rock and had to cut off his own arm with a dull knife in order to escape death.
I recently saw “127 Hours” and it got me turning over in my head the idea of bravery. If people describe what Ralston did as brave, how could I possibly be described the same way? Frankly, it made me embarrassed to even think about.
But eventually I started to see things a little differently. I may have been called brave because of something that happened to me, but I would do anything to undo it.
Run into a burning building? Sure.
Try to defuse a bomb? No problem.
Even cut off my own arm? Gladly if it would bring my little girl back to me.
Ralston is a father now himself, and if he is anything like the parents I know, I’m sure the thought of watching his son die before his eyes is far more horrifying than the thought of re-living his personal nightmare under that rock in Utah.
So maybe I’ve never done anything that would earn me the right to be (traditionally) described as brave, but I have gotten up every day since I lost Maddie, I’ve continued to support my wife, and I’ve tried to salvage whatever is left. And if doing all that makes me brave, then, well, I guess I am.