Fearless. Be unafraid of what is before you. Embrace the path placed before you and make of it the best that you can.
They say heroes are made not born. When faced with the most horrible of situations, fearless human strength and fortitude has a way of peeking out of the recesses of our souls and finding the light of day. Of course, to define fearless, I suppose that at first you have to define hero.
Hero is someone who deals with some of the most challenging of situations and does not shirk from their duty. It is not simply the navy seal who halos into enemy territory to take out the most wanted terrorist in the world; Or the police officer who walks into that dangerous domestic violence call; Or the firefighter who was going up the Twin Towers while everyone else was running out. Their job descriptions call for them to be heroes. It’s what they signed up for. And no I am not making light of what they do and how they put themselves in harms way to ensure that we all live in a little better, little safer, little more civilized world.
Today’s fearless hero is the parent who has to make the soul crushing decision to turn off their child’s life support, or the ones who hold their child dieing from cancer, in their arms and feels their last breath. I am talking about the person who makes that gut wrenching decision to end the life of someone they love beyond their own life.
We all know, as we grow up, that we will bury our parents. At some point, in the normal course of things, we will have to help our parents along to their final resting place. Many of us have already faced that reality, and everyone of us knows that most likely we will face it in the future. That is how the world works. We expect. It may be trying. It may be hard. It may be overwhelming. But it is not fearless. It is the circle of life.
And that is not to say that burying a parent is easy. I have buried both of mine. I made the final decision for my father, as he lay dieing of cancer. What I did for him was not fearless. It was about my love and respect for him. It was about giving him the peace he deserved.
In fact this time last year, I had to make the life and death decision for my mother after she sustained terrible injuries in a car accident. But no, I would not say I was fearless. I would say I did what I knew one day I would have to do. I did what my mother and I had discussed I would have to do on several occasions. It was about love and respect and knowing how she wanted to live her life.
But when a parent has to make such decisions for a child, no matter the age of that child, then it takes a kind of fearless truth to see beyond yourself and that immense searing pain. I can’t even really imagine that pain. To stand up to that pain and do what needs to be done. To watch the child you have raised, that you love beyond any life of your own, need you to love them just so much more so you can say goodbye forever.
When my oldest was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at five, one of the main things that parents face is what we call mourning the child we fantasized about. The child that would have an ordinary, typical life. Childhood. Adolescence. College. Friends. Companions. Love. Marriage and a family of their own. We had to create a different, more realistic view of the life to come. It wasn’t easy. It was emotionally painful. But it was not fearless. It was grabbing ahold of the reality that you are living in and finding the best possible life for your child. It is a different kind of plotting and planning and hope for the future, that may or may not include some of what we in society call a normal life.
But when a parent has to hold their dieing child in their arms and feel that last breath leave their body, there are no more alternate realities. There is no future. There is only that emptiness, that wanting, that grief beyond grief.And they are even the lucky ones. The ones who at least can say goodbye.
The parent who buries their soldier, their police officer, their firefighter child, may never have that ability to hold them one last time. Yet it is the parent, the spouses and children, that are fearless in the face of the reality that death may come knocking at their door in a uniform with a heartfelt thank-you from a grateful nation.
The parent who makes the decision to donate their brain-dead child’s organs so others may live, is fearless beyond words. Could you, faced with the most intense emotional pain ever known to humanity, actually make a decision to care about someone else’s dieing child? Could you tell the surgeon, yes cut up my child, take pieces of them, farm them, so others may live? Yes, it adds a sense, a purpose to a senseless loss of life, but do you think you would be fearless enough in such a situation to make such a decision? Be honest with yourself.
Afterwards the living try to move forward. If they can. Survivors living every day. Waking up to face another sunrise and sunset. That is fearless.
We sometimes forget about the survivors in all of our daily lives. The survivors. They are the fearless ones .