courage is my friend meridith, come back from the brink of death, or maybe even just a little bit past the brink, and enduring, loving, giving, carrying on, turning it over to God, remembering every. single. person. brother. sister. child. on their birthdays.

courage is my mother, Janet, who started chemo the same day she met with the oncologist after hearing the words, “you have cancer,” then, acquiescing to the killing drip just hours later, without even time to think. and then again began another round the monday after hearing the chilling words “your cancer is back,” again without time to think or feel.

courage is my mother-in-law, Barbara, who beat breast cancer and then kept moving forward, usually in pain, and then bravely went into back surgery, not knowing she would not wake up.

courage is a tiny baby girl born too soon, but living, learning, eating, growing, never complaining, even though the world outside was not nearly as comforting quiet, warm and quiet and her world inside. the tender grasp of tiny fingers around a loving digit extended from those of us loving, praying.

courage is the mothers, so many mothers, risking all to house and grow another child, fully knowing they will, at some point, become so sick to the brink of death. and then do it again a few years later. and then again.

courage is my friend pam, paralyzed since high school, who gets up each day and, with the help of an aide, out of bed. who shops and cooks and cleans for herself since her mother died, fiercely as independent as she possibly can be and more than most of us could imagine.

courage is so many friends and some family who, at least on most days, push through pain, the heavy, hopeless darkness of depression, to get themselves out of bed to face another day.

courage is a refugee girl whose story i heard on npr, or maybe ted, who watched as grown men gave up and let go of whatever life-saving flotation they could grab when their boat was sunk by wicked, hateful men. who watched as the love of her life said goodbye and let go. who bravely, possibly numbly, took the baby another woman–a stranger–pushed into her arms, begging her to save her, before letting go. who hung on to her own salvaged flotation. hung on to the baby. hung on to her life. and made a new one in a land unknown, having lost all but her soul and a stranger’s baby.

courage have i not, as i turn away and refuse to look at the body of the boy in the red shirt, washed up on the beach. as i only take in one face, one story at a time, when there are hundreds, thousands, tends of thousands more.

[Day 196 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]