Finding Courage And Light When Life Feels So Dark

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” Mary Anne Rademacher

Courage. What is the meaning behind this powerful word? How does one find courage and hold everything together when everything seems to be falling apart? The dictionary has many definitions for courage. The ability to do something that frightens one or strength in the face of pain and grief are just two examples of words that define what courage can mean.

While both of these definitions represent courage, I love the quote from above that Mary Anne so eloquently wrote and shared.

She is right. Courage does not always ROAR.  For some, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about courage is war. There is no doubt that the men and women who show up on the battlefield to fight, protect and serve demonstrate selfless acts of courage, bravery and fearlessness each and every day. However, there are so many other things that also demand courage in our daily lives. Things that can test our faith, overwhelm us, turn our world upside down and leave us to question if we can keep moving from one day to the next.

Courage is not always loud and on the front lines. Courage is sometimes a quiet whisper that leaves a footprint on our hearts. Courage, strength, bravery, heroism and grit can appear when we least expect it and quite honestly, when we need it the most.

In recent weeks, I witnessed immeasurable courage and strength from a woman who I loved, admired and adored. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she knew that she was facing the battle of her life. She didn’t necessarily run out to the battlefield with a loud roar but rather her courage showed up in the most amazing ways each and every day. Despite the pain and the suffering she had to endure, she tried to be positive, found gratitude in her life, looked for the wisdom in the pain, loved her family and friends deeply, said I love you often, shared priceless stories, worried about those she loved, hugged, said thank you, walked her journey with grace, was humble to her core, didn’t complain, was kind, inspired all of us, laughed and never lost her faith. For me, she represented courage every single day and fought with courage until the end. She was brave. She was strong. She was a hero.

Losing my mother in law and friend this past week and having the honor to spend precious time with her in her final days changed me yet again. Every loss in my journey has come with invaluable life lessons and while this loss is incredibly painful and heartbreaking, it has also reminded me of what matters most. This amazing woman taught me important lessons in life and in her passing.

I want to share some of the important life lessons learned for living our best lives even when times are hard:

  1.  In the end, love is what truly matters. Love is the only thing that matters. Love trumps everything else and when we are facing pain, loss, suffering and all of the many difficult things that can fall into our daily lives, love is the glue that holds everything together when our lives fall apart.
  2. Everyone on this planet needs connection and to feel connected to someone. Staying connected to and spending time with those we love and care about needs to be non-negotiable regardless of how busy life can be. Don’t wait until someone is sick or in trouble or worse yet, gone. Reach out today. Connect in this moment. Make time. There are no guarantees that tomorrow will come.
  3. Take nothing for granted. First and most important, do not take the people you love and care about for granted. Family and friends are a gift and may not always be around. Do not take your health for granted. There are no guarantees with health and we can lose our health or our ability to get around in the blink of an eye. Appreciate all that you have. We spend too much time worrying about everything we don’t have verses appreciating all that we do. While we must all face challenges and sometimes wish for different or more, there is always someone else that has far less.
  4. Choose well. While there are many things that happen in this life that are out of our control, most things come down to personal choice. One wrong choice can change a life forever. Make good choices and do the next right thing. It is when we choose well that we can close our eyes at night feeling good about ourselves and fall asleep in peace.
  5. Forgive others and forgive yourself. Hanging on to past hurts, grudges, anger and regret can keep you stuck in a place you do not want to be. Let go of the past. You can learn from it but you cannot change it. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. Don’t let mistakes, hurt and regrets weigh you down. Remember, mistakes can lead you to who you truly want to be but more importantly they can shine a light on who you don’t want to be. Forgiving brings the gift of freedom and a peaceful heart.
  6. Simply be grateful. Even when times are difficult there is always something to be grateful for. There is beauty all around us even when it is shadowed by the ugliness in this world. Look around you and look deep within. Find those things that you are grateful for. They are there and hanging on to those things whether big or small in troubled times can help you to keeping putting one foot in front of the other.
  7. Be humble and kind. My mother-in-law was always humble and she was always kind. Tim McGraw’s song Humble and Kind reminds me of her and who she was as a person. No excuses and regardless of how dark life can be, stay humble and kind. https://youtu.be/awzNHuGqoMc
  8. Do not judge others. It is human to judge but I encourage each and every one of you to try to practice empathy versus judgement. It is impossible to know what another person is going through without first walking in their shoes. Keep an open mind, find compassion and be empathetic to others. There will come a time when you will need others to be empathetic and compassionate towards you.
  9. Family extends far beyond a confined set of walls and does not come wrapped neatly in a shiny box. I have learned and very much believe that there are many different versions of family and in the end family represents love, equality, forgiveness, acceptance without condition, support and being there for each other when it matters the most. It is not about blood, a last name, a marriage or divorce.  It is not about a legal piece of paper, the color of one’s skin, gender, where we live or how much money we make. It is not about religion or what we have come to believe. Family is about love and acceptance. Period. I admired my mother-in-law for this quality.
  10. Courage is a part of who we are. We all have courage and we are stronger and more resilient than any one of us can imagine. Courage does not come without fear. Fear and life’s darkest times are sometimes what lead us to dig deep and discover our courage and to learn just how strong we truly are. Have faith, never give up hope, fight to stay positive and believe in who you are in both good times and bad. Don’t quit and keep trying. You are a courageous warrior and the human spirit is amazing even when times are hard. As Mary Anne said, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” Find your courage. It is there.
  11. There is good in this world. When times are tough and we are immersed in what can feel like an incredibly dark place, there is still so much light and good in and around us. There are good people everywhere. People come together during tragedy, loss, hardships and pain. Give. Share. Make a difference in the lives of others. Be a good person. Remember, giving is a gift to others but it is also a gift to your own heart.

As I write this, my heart is broken from the loss of a woman who has touched my heart, the lives of my children and so many others. She will be deeply missed but I was inspired by who she was, who she is and always will be.  There is wisdom in the wounds and there are lessons in life and in death. I continue to learn and grow with every difficult thing that comes to this journey we must all walk.

In closing, I have learned that a part of life is to walk through darkness so we can truly embrace and appreciate the light. It may not always be easy and yes, sometimes you will stumble in the darkness and fall. But remember, whether your courage and strength shows up as a roar or simply a whisper in your heart, you are strong, you are courageous and have faith that you can get back up.

In honor and with deep gratitude to Marge Shores; thank you for being an inspiration to so many. Thank you for your love, your support, your acceptance, your wisdom, your kindness and for reminding me about what is most important in life. You were brave, selfless, strong and courageous. You are one of my heroes and I love you.

 

In Love and In Peace,

 

Michele

 

 

 

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