We didn’t even know she was on the swing. It wasn’t until she made the walk from the tree swing up the stairs to the top of the deck and burst into tears, that we learned she had fallen off of it. She held in the pain and emotion the whole walk up to us. It was only when she saw us that she quickly sputtered out the words, “Mom, Dad, I fell off the swing. I hurt my back and my wrist!” Hadley’s face reddened, lips quivered, and huge crocodile tears filled her sweet eyes as soon as she knew she had reached the safe place with us where we could help.
Jordan scooped her up and held her on the outdoor couch. I immediately wanted to see her wrist and get some ice. Her little brother John, along the same lines as me, wanted to “take action,” and brought her blankets for her to hold.
It made me grateful for my daughter. Her bravery, her vulnerability, and how she was surrounded by people who love her more than anything.
I was five months pregnant with Hadley and teaching second grade, when an excited student ran up to the front of the classroom to tell me something at the end of the day. “Mrs. Terrell, Mrs. Terrell!” Right before she reached me, she tripped and fell right into my stomach. Hard.
Panic rushed over me and my eyes widened but I quickly assured her, “it’s okay!” Although I wasn’t sure that it was. How hard of a hit is too hard on a pregnant belly? Had the baby felt anything? Should I go to the doctor? I didn’t have much time to think about it because dismissal had come. I hurried kids to their buses and the parent pick-up area.
I felt the tears stinging my eyes as I quickly rushed back to the safety and solitude of my after-school classroom. “Not at work, not at work. I will not cry at work.” I repeated to myself. Weakly, I forced myself to smile as I walked by parents, coworkers, other teachers hoping they wouldn’t notice. I was scared something was wrong and that the baby got hurt. I was also fearful that this may seem irrational or silly to some people, so I wanted to just be alone.
Once I made it back to my room, I allowed the tears to come. One coworker had followed me back and came after me. “Kayleen, are you okay? I saw you walking back to your room. You looked upset.”
I had tried to walk bravely, to save face, but she knew. She noticed the facade. I was only trying to be brave to save face but I did not truly feel courageous. Not only had my coworker noticed, but she then turned around, followed me back and spoke words of comfort and gave an encouraging hug. I hadn’t walked as bravely back to my classroom as I had wanted, although I tried. But my coworker did. She bravely turned around knowing all was not well, and came to check on me.
After a call to my doctor and an explanation of the situation, all was okay. I didn’t need to come into the office. Hadley was born four months later, healthy as could be. Then almost seven years after that, she made that brave walk up to our deck and into our arms.
Walking brave can look different for each person. Hadley walked to get to a safe place where she knew she’d be taken care of and loved. My coworker walked bravely following a hunch that I wasn’t okay and came to see me. Even though I couldn’t keep the tears away or keep a poker face down the school hall, I had walked bravely too or at least tried to. Walking brave doesn’t mean you don’t show emotion, but maybe it’s more about finding that place you can be vulnerable and let it out. Even if that place is simply inside you.
My Dad recently wrote regarding a writing prompt on bravery no less, about his battle with depression. He said, “Perhaps the most courageous thing I’ve ever done was come to face to face with my depression.” Although he had equated bravery with heroism, noting his ideal image of bravery was his father, my grandfather, who fought in WWII. However, he then came to the realization that bravery can take many forms and is experienced or traveled through varying ways in a person’s life. And while my grandfather had exuded bravery at what seems like it’s finest, and the men and women who daily put themselves on the line to protect our country are indeed courageous, what makes someone else’s battle or overcoming fear less so?
I started reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, to Hadley. I had found the book rummaging through a box of books in the garage and remembered how much I loved the story. I got excited to reread it and thought Hadley might like the story too.
I remember the part where Aslan, the mighty lion walks bravely knowing he must die and sacrifice himself to save Edmund and ultimately everyone else. Parallels have been drawn between Aslan and Jesus. Jesus walked bravely to his death. He absolutely showed emotion. He showed vulnerability. Arguable, his walk to the cross was the ultimate example of “walking brave.”
I’ve thought a lot about how we’ve had to walk bravely these past several months. How brave Hadley has been embracing distance learning, not seeing her friends as often, not experiencing the typical back to school excitement. How I’ve tried to walk bravely for my kids and family, even though I face fears and anxiety planted by the uncertainty of the times we are in.
I find a deep sense of relief and praise in knowing that Jesus was and is brave, and that is one less thing that I have to strive for or yearn to be. Because He is, I am.
John will be the first to admit, more admittedly so at bedtime, “I am not brave.”
He says this because he wants to sleep in our bed with us. Even after he is surrounded by stuffed animals, his blankie, and hallway light, he tells us,” I am not brave,” because we try to tell him he is. The other night, Jordan was having the same conversation with him that we tend to have most nights convincing him of his bravery. “Captain America is right here, Iron Man is right here…” Jordan lifts up each super hero stuffie and places them next to John. “Mom and Dad are right here, just in our room. Hadley is right here.”
“Jesus is right here.” John says pointing up to the ceiling.
I think about the other times in our kids’ lives that they’ll need to be brave. C.S. Lewis said that, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” Hadley and John will have many testing points and many opportunities to walk bravely. I hope they will come to learn they can lean on Jesus in uncertainty. What was the testing point of God’s love? When Jesus died on the cross for us, the ultimate act of bravery.