What comes to mind when someone uses the term brave or courageous? Who or what do you envision? The reason I ask is because I have been falsely identified as being brave, courageous or strong. I have even been identified as someones hero. I am neither. I am weak. I am scared. I am a grieving parent.
Those titles are given to people who know the danger they are putting themselves in, but do so anyway. Police officers know that every day they put on the uniform, they face life and death situations and possibly might not make it home. Firefighters willingly place themselves into harm’s way as they embattled flames to save their fellow human beings lives. Military personnel join their chosen branch knowing that at any given moment, they might be sent to a war ridden country as bullets and bombs fly all around them. ALL of them know and understand the heartbreak and dangers of what they must face each and every day. They were fully aware of the pain that their decision would cause themselves or those that love them if the unthinkable happened. Those are the true Hero’s. My son Anthony joined the military around the time when our war was at the worst. He knew going in that he more than likely would need to face danger straight on knowing he might not win. I still recall the day he called me to tell me he was being shipped out. I needed to be strong for him because I knew he was scared. He told me he was ready….ready for what I thought? HE is a hero. He deserves the title. He knew the danger and faced it anyway.
I, on the other hand, did not sign up for this when I became a mother. I knew there would be heartaches, worries, disagreements and sleepless nights, but I never, not even for one inkling of a moment would I ever imagine I would lose my child. Even as Anthony went to war, I always knew he would return. When he did, I knew I was one of the lucky ones. I never wanted to put a flag on a coffin. I never wanted to see a coffin, yet I unwillingly faced it with the death of my other son. Yet, like Anthony, I am fighting my own battle but I have no hope of ever leaving the battle field. I fight this war every day and I am not brave. I was never given the choice. Please don’t call me brave. I am scared beyond belief.
I am not strong. This war inside of me has left me weak and defeated. There are days I can barely lift my head off my pillow. Some nights I just want to drift off to sleep so I no longer hear the sounds on bombs going off around me or feel the ugliness of war. I want to forget the images that only war brings….the image of death.
I am not courageous. I am scared…more like terrified. I am afraid of what the future holds for me…for my other children. I am scared of being in that state of bliss. That feeling when you feel the wind in your hair and the breeze brush upon your cheek. You know that one moment when you smile, inhale and say “Life is good.” I am afraid that I will never have that again and if I do, I may jinx it.
I am not anyone’s hero. Hero isn’t a word that should be associated with a grieving parent. Heroes are given medals and proclamations. They are given standing ovations and pats on the back. What do you give a parent who not only has buried their child, but one that is expected to continue to go about their lives every day? The only thing that we want, we will never get. I don’t need a pat on the back or a high five. I don’t need the Purple Medal of Honor, even though my wounds supersedes all wounds.
This got me to thinking…What positive word is out there to describe a parent that even though they feel dead inside, they have chosen to keep on living. Webster’s dictionary describes a hero as ‘a person admired for achievements and noble qualities: one who shows great courage. The, the word courage is defined as mental or moral strength to venture and persevere, while withstanding danger, fear, or difficulty. I have not preserved at anything. I then decided to look up grief and the definition was quite the opposite: Disaster, unfortunate, despair, suffering. There was not one positive word in the definition of grief. There was nothing about being a hero, being strong, or being courageous. Grief is just that…grief. Every day is a battle, every day I am scared, every day I am weak. I am an embattled fearful solider, hearing the bombs go off around me as I duck for cover and praying for silence.
We, those who lost their child, have lost the battle yet our war continues…