Courage: cour·age /ˈkərij/
noun: The ability to do something that frightens one. “She called on all her courage to face the ordeal”
Strength in the face of pain or grief – “he fought his illness with great courage”
Synonyms: bravery, braveness, courageousness, pluck, pluckiness, valor, fearlessness, intrepidity, intrepidness, nerve, daring, audacity, boldness, fortitude, resolve, blah blah blah
My husband and I were traveling home from our 3-month winter siesta and were catching a ferry from Port Angeles Washington to Vancouver Island. Once on board we found a seat and were prepared to have an hour and a half of veg out time, we had been on the road for 4 days and we were tired. My husband went for a walk to look for a coffee and I said I’d save his seat as the boat was filling up. A man came and sat across from me and his family sat down next to us. He looked at me and said, “I’d feel more comfortable sitting there”, pointing to the seat next to me. I said that my husband was sitting there, and he just stared at me like he didn’t understand what I said. So, I replied “I guess my husband can sit across from me, would that make you feel better?” To which he said yes, and he sat down next to me, then he began talking.
He told us he grew up in Port Angeles, a tiny town that we learned has a ton of history, much of which he told us about. He told us stories of where he used to slay the big fish, he told us about a mine he worked at, and about the local mill and the gossip that went along with it. He was quite the tour guide. At this point, I started my judgemental assessment of this guy (something I’m not proud of) – I thought he was a little strange and why is he glomming onto us, what did we do to encourage this guy to sit and tell us his life story, how do I get out of this conversation? But then, the tone of the conversation changed. He told us he had a stroke the year before – he was 49 years old. His wife found him at home and instead of calling an ambulance, she packed him in the car and drove him to the hospital herself as an ambulance would take too long. He was immediately airlifted to Seattle where they told his wife he would likely not make it. He died that day – he described feeling warm and fuzzy and actually seeing a light and the light circle was slowly closing but when it got to a pinpoint, he took a huge breath and opened his eyes. He knew he wasn’t done yet. He had a young family to watch grow up. He had to relearn everything again just as a child does. He had to learn to blink his eyes, he had to learn to open his mouth, turn his head, Iift his arms, eat, walk, talk, you name it, he had to learn it ALL OVER AGAIN. All of which he was told he would never be able to do again. He was in physical therapy and they were having him lift his arms and legs from a sitting position and he got extremely frustrated with this tiny little movement bull sh&^ and said “this is not therapy”. He then pulled himself up and tried to walk unassisted and found that he could do it, he was done with their method of physical therapy and decided to take it on himself. It wasn’t pretty, but he could do it and he continued to do it every single day until he was moving around unassisted and with confidence. He went back to work after 6 months…..this man couldn’t blink his eyes or swallow a sip of water 6 months prior, he worked his ass off to get to this point. He told us he made a deal with the big guy that he would talk to every person he could to try to give them hope and to inspire them to live with faith and courage. I sat in awe and listened to his story which seemed unbelievable and I thought to myself, this is a man who is the epitome of courage in my eyes. That was an hour and half that flew by like it was minutes and I was sad for the ride to be over.
I know that I will likely never see this man again, but he had a profound effect on me that day. Why did this man feel the need to sit by me? He had very little interaction with his wife and kids, they sat there and let this man talk our ears off without even questioning what he was doing or asking for his attention. I believe he knew that he had something to say that I obviously needed to hear. Some people come in your life as a blessing (and you know who you all are to me) and some come as lessons. I think I need to chalk this one up as a lesson. He made me wonder if I was dealing with my disease with courage. He made me wonder what I was doing about managing the things that are happening to my body. I mean, if I want to put it into perspective – thankfully, I haven’t had a stroke, I haven’t had to learn to blink my eyes, I haven’t lost the ability to walk, talk, eat or speak, which can happen when you have Multiple Sclerosis. What am I doing every day to move myself forward to better health and quality of life? Am I being courageous? Am I doing things to challenge myself every day? Am I taking control over my situation even if its hard? Am I doing the right things, even though nobody is watching? I have been trying to walk with this disease gracefully, although I stumble through many days – but maybe I don’t have to be graceful. Maybe I need to be like a dog with a bone, determined and consistent. Maybe I just need to show up, be courageous and take steps every day, even if they may be small. Small steps will get me to where I need to go, it might be slow, but I will still get there. I believe we don’t meet people by accident, they are meant to cross our paths for a reason and when it is a brief encounter, we may never know that reason. I am lucky to be able to say that I have a lot of courageous people in my daily life and I am honoured to be in their presence. They give me courage when I need it and help me find strength when I think I’ve lost it. But, when I think all the odds are against me, I’m going to think of this man’s story and put things in perspective and choose to live my life more courageously and with more intention. Life is short and can be taken away as quickly as it was given
Have you ever met someone briefly who encouraged you or had a profound impact on your life? I’m sure I can’t be the only one! Tell me who inspires or encourages you when you need it?
Until Next Time!