Courage: “Mental or moral strength to face danger without fear.”
This definition is very true, but in recent experiences, I have witnessed that courage is something much different than facing “danger without fear.”
It is the strength to accept responsibility for your mistakes and not hide or attempt to place blame upon anyone other than yourself.
It is the ability to remain steadfast in a decision affecting the greater good when it would be so easy to give in.
But most of all, it is the ability to stare fear straight in the eye and overcome it in order to do what is right.
All of these things, and so much more, have become extremely evident as I have watched my younger sister mature in the past six months.
It seems so long ago, but a mere four months ago my family learned that my sister had another life growing inside of her body that would be joining us sometime in January. This news shocked not only me and my family, but my sister as well. She had attempted to make excuses for all the warning signs which pointed to what she felt happening within her body, to no avail. Nothing could avert what was taking place.
The thing that caused the greatest frustration in me was that the young man who should have been supporting my sister had fled his responsibilities and moved across the country to New York. This left my sister feeling as though she was left alone with the implications of the decision she would have to make regarding the new life forming inside of her. Therefore, she leaned heavily upon the strength of my mother and the rest of our family, causing an even deeper closeness between us.
My sister showed tremendous courage in accepting that she had made a very costly mistake and that there was nothing she could do but move forward. Rather than dwelling on her situation and feeling sorry for herself, my sister began actively seeking input on what her choices were and what options she had in the coming months. Ultimately she was left with two choices. Since an abortion could no longer be performed, she could either keep the child, drop out of school, and take care of him– or she could place him for adoption.
If she chose to keep the baby, her determination to perform better in school, her hard work over the summer and the previous semester, and her love of playing softball would all be wiped away by a single act. Therefore, she contacted an adoption agency and began sifting through various families in search of the perfect one. I was tremendously impressed by my sister’s decision-making and steadfastness in this process of deciding who she would ultimately be giving the most important thing in her life to. Her choice wasn’t based on the superficial things, such as age and appearance, that many girls her age would look at; instead, she based her decision on who would give her son the best life and home possible. Her maturity showed me how much she had grown up and how courageous she truly was as the decision-making process unfolded.
I was able to attend a meeting with a family she was considering for placement. During that meeting, I witnessed my sister sum up the courage to ask the family all of the questions that needed answering, an act that I am not sure that I personally would have been able to do.
As my sister’s pregnancy became increasingly noticeable as the baby grew larger inside of her, instead of choosing to hide it and remain home from school in order to avoid embarrassment, my sister refused to be deterred. She continued to attend school and faced all questions without flinching or attempting to deceive anyone about what had occurred and what she was going to do in the future. It was truly amazing to witness her conversing with her friends in the hallways as if nothing had ever happened, even with immature boys asking asinine questions in the background. She displayed a courage in her actions that many people wish they could possess; the courage to stand proudly despite your mistakes, and to do so amidst criticism and opposition. The reality and effect that this unborn child would have upon our lives, and the lives of many others, became increasingly apparent as my sister quickly approached the final stages of her pregnancy.
As her contractions began, it truly became real to me that another life had grown within her, and I found my respect for her grew even more as she stoically endured the pain in preparation for the birth of her child. She went in for an appointment on a Wednesday afternoon and subsequently was induced into labor. Amazingly, she gave birth to a beautiful boy some eleven hours later at 12:48 in the morning.
I was very worried that I would not be able to see my nephew before she was to give him up to his new family as I had basketball games both Thursday and Friday night, as well as school during the day. Fortunately, things worked out, and I was able to visit my newest family member a day after his birth.
Walking into my sister’s room at the hospital and seeing the tiny human being she held in her arms, my heart broke as I thought about the events leading up to this point. While I cradled the beautiful boy in my arms and thankfully saw only his mother’s features in him, I received a new appreciation for life and the insignificance of so many things we worry about in the modern world. My mother, girlfriend, sister, and I all shed tears at both the joy and wonderful perfection of the tiny life in my arms and the impending decision my sister faced the following morning. We enjoyed the rest of my time there, cooing over every movement and noise little Joshua made.
Saturday morning, my stepdad, girlfriend, and I traveled back to Medford for the final time. My sister still had the option of keeping her child, as the adoption agency required a 48-hour waiting period before the mother could sign anything that makes her decision final.
When we arrived that morning, I was once again struck by the reality of it all. In the room I noticed everything: the flowers on the desk, the soda I had left the day before, the pile of baby clothes on the counter. But the thing that dominated my mind the most was, of course, young Joshua. His spiky little hair and perfect little nose were all that was required to warm your heart and bring a smile to your face. I knew that if this was the way I felt about him, my sister’s feelings were infinitely greater. As I thought about it, I realized that I didn’t believe she possessed the strength to give up the child. Maybe he would have had a better home and a true family, but how could she give something so perfect and wonderful away? Seeing the adoration in her eyes as she stared at him and the care with which she performed every task from burping him to changing his diaper, my belief that she didn’t have the strength became even more firm.
When the family arrived at the hospital to visit and ultimately leave with Joshua, my sister’s emotions overflowed and tears streamed down her face. Just minutes prior to their arrival, she had placed her signature upon the papers handing over her newborn child to this family. She had done this without a sound, yet when they arrived, and she realized that the process was reaching its final stages, her walls came crashing down.
Witnessing this, I could not believe the resolve and courage that my sister had in giving up her only child. It would have been so incredibly easy to just say, “No, I want my baby,” and then move on from there. Even my mother, who had thoroughly advocated the adoption early on, admitted that she was secretly wishing my sister would change her mind. I even found myself wishing the same thing. Yet it was my sister who, in the end, had the courage and determination to do what was in the best interests of Joshua. The following days were the hardest of her life, and nearly everything reminded her of the tiny life she had just given away, setting off a new wave of tears and used-up Kleenex boxes.
Yet, as the days passed, so too did the sting of the loss she felt and the pain of absence of Joshua’s presence. As my sister began to smile and joke with the rest of my family, I realized how strong she truly was. In my eyes she displayed a courage far greater than anything displayed on any battlefield. She showed courage in carrying out a decision she had months to ponder and contemplate. There were no sudden actions. In fact, each step was such a drawn-out and emotionally demanding process that it is a wonder she made it through.
Therefore, it is my belief that courage can be found outside of danger. Instead it can be found in the facing of the consequences of our actions and the acceptance of the responsibilities that follow. It goes without saying that my sister has learned many lessons from this experience, yet I feel like I have learned as well. I learned that my sister possesses a courage that so few people in this world have: the courage to do what is right, no matter the pain and emotional scarring that may follow.