“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”- John Wayne
I’ve always loved this quote by John Wayne. Whenever I read it, I think of the archetypal cowboy, brandishing his revolver, jumping on a horse, and galloping into a storm of bullets to serve some honorable cause. It’s hard to imagine how much fear one would have to swallow to do such a thing.
I’m starting to think, though, there is more than one type of bravery. Certainly, there’s the sort that enables a person to defy the fear of death; it comes on in quick bursts, infused with adrenaline – a bravery that enables one to rush into a burning building. But there’s another type of brave that enables one to rebuild after the building has burned. The first type may be faster, perhaps bolder, but the second requires a level of endurance few possess.
When you meet one of these individuals – a person of endurance – you tend to recognize it. I know such a one. Though young, she’s learned to practice bravery in a way many can’t understand.
I met Casey fifteen years ago; she was six-years-old at the time. I’d recently fallen in love with her older cousin, whom I later married. I remember noticing Casey’s eyes – the way they appeared as portals to a deeper story, visible in flashes beneath crystalline blue. And there was the unusual way she moved. Casey was born with cerebral palsy, and when she walked, she appeared much like a dancing angel – one who’s not sure she has the steps right. But she danced anyway. Even then, she was practicing that enduring sort of bravery.
A lot has happened the past fifteen years. I married Casey’s cousin, had a couple kids, adopted at least one too many pugs, developed some disorders, de-constructed and re-constructed, and along the way I’ve learned to pay attention to the World behind our world.
Casey’s been through much as well. Growing up is not easy in this world – not for anybody – and so much more difficult for one who’s body does not always move the way it’s asked to move. She’s endured difficult surgeries to temper the physical effects of CP, but some hardship goes deeper than muscle and brain and nerve endings. Some hardship is untreatable and can only be lived through, endured. Braved. That’s what Casey does. The more she braves, the stronger she grows, and the more she reflects her strength with an incredible gift for seeing the unseen World and describing it with words and pictures.
I believe the universe portrays a grand story, and every living thing shares a piece of that story. You and I – we give the story voice. Some of us tell the funny parts, some the sweet, some the dramatic, and some the poignant – the painful. All the story’s parts are important, but it may be the painful parts that are most necessary. Where would our story be without hardship? How shallow would our laughter be if it were not distinguished by tears?
I mentioned that humanity gives voice to the grand story, but I also think we are meant as ears to hear the story. Most of us are better at telling than listening, which is a shame, because it’s only by listening we are made aware of how vast and diverse and powerful is this miracle of Life. Casey’s story is powerful indeed. Sometimes, when the world is hushed, if you pay attention, you may hear that story – one which burns so brightly you see it in her eyes – and when you hear a story like that, it changes you. You don’t forget it.
Keep telling your story, brave Casey – in every way you’re moved to. We all need to hear it.