On Courage

My father killed himself.  It has taken days just to process the reality of that statement.  It sinks in more each day as remnants of his life are taken out of his home and affairs are wrapped up.  The living are forced to account for the dead in small chunks in the modern world.  A signed document here, an account closed there, a final payment, and so on.

With each little task reminding me of my father’s suicide I think about my mother.  Specifically, I think about the courage of my mother.

She was diagnosed with terminal cancer in her lungs and brain.  A lifelong smoker she did not rage at the causes of the cancer, just the fact that she would not be alive to see her granddaughter grow up.  I have no doubt that she was angry about knowing her death was imminent, but she refused allowing that anger to define her final moments.

She faced certain death and chose to wring out every last moment of life.  She spent days wracked with pain and experiencing hallucinations she knew in her mind were not real, but refused to succumb to the desire to leave this mortal plane.

I do not want to trivialize the depression that eventually led to my father’s suicide, but I cannot help compare his actions to those of my mother.

I will never forget her lying in bed, able to do little more than move her head to one side, sharing a cup of water with my daughter, who would sit beside the bed for hours and hand my mother a Cheerio at a time.

Near the end, when the pain was horrible, she could have taken her own life and there was a network of people to assist her in a peaceful end.  Yet, she endured on little more than courage to enjoy a few more moments with her family before being taken too soon.


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