A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.
- Mahatma Gandhi
The bravest person I know lives next door to me. You wouldn't think it to look at her. She's a petite, well-mannered, white-haired mother of five, grandmother of twelve, who walks with a cane and has a soft-spot for Starbucks.
Long story short (since it's not really my tale to tell), she's quietly and with great strength been battling cancer for the past few years. At this point, her doctors say there's little they can do. They might be able to give her a little more time with treatment, but she wants her remaining time with friends and family to be quality rather than quantity. And there's that "prerogative of the brave"...she loves those around her enough that she can face the end bravely if it means having even that little bit of time with them. Let me tell you, from the traffic in and out of her driveway these days, they love her back in equal measure. Her children and grandchildren are taking time out of their own lives to visit her in droves.
It works the other way, too. Not only does love make us brave, but we must be brave in order to love. Because loving someone puts us in a position to get hurt. We become invested, and face the very real possibility of losing that person. My children are in this position right now although they don't know it. My neighbor and her husband have nicknames; they are my daughters' "next door Nana and Pop Pop". The girls have no idea that she's sick (they think nothing of her greeting them at the door in her pajamas at lunchtime; pajama day is something to aspire to among the elementary school set) . At some point I'm going to have to explain, and I have no idea how. It will be the first time their little lives have been touched by the death of someone they love.
But for right now, I'm trying to focus on the positive. I'm trying to learn from her grace and bravery and love. Appropriate given that it was just Valentine's Day. Despite everything else she is facing, she had the usual bag of goodies for each of my girls. There hasn't been a holiday or birthday in the four years we've lived next door to them that she's missed. We brought them gifts, as well. Chocolate heart-shaped cookies with icing and sprinkles for Pop Pop, who is also known as "the Cookie Monster", and a little something special for Nana...
It's a textured copper circle stamped NANA with two rosebuds. Twelve pewter bali beads represent her twelve grandchildren. When I made it, I wanted to honor the garden that this amazing woman had grown and cultivated with such love for so many years. She cried when I explained that.
She convinces me every day that Ghandi was right; bravery is intertwined with love. It's a lesson I hope I've learned, and that I am determined to teach my daughters. May they grow to have that much grace and strength every day of their lives. Let them be brave enough to love, and love enough that it gives them bravery.