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Being Brave

Bravery is aspirational. We savor stories of heroism, grit and valor; drinking them in like liquid courage. We tend to ponder the big moments…will we be ready? Will we put ourselves in harm’s way, standing strong as the path of certain pain careens our direction? Or will we run, squirreling pluck away for another day?

Big or small, an act of bravery is a steeling; an understanding we will suffer if we choose this path, and that once the call is counted what’s next is unavoidable. These moments lie on a spectrum from the mundane to the audacious. This week I was reminded of the beauty in both.

First there’s John McCain. A man whose politics I reject yet whose conviction and soul I hold dear. A man who knew true sacrifice, the worth and weight of valiant choices. A man who embraced humanity, evolution and dedication to the end of his earthly days. I can only imagine the feeling of living in his skin as he chose courage over comfort again and again.

Then there’s Hazel. I realize the connection between a recently-turned-four-year-old and an American hero is tenuous, but please bear with me.

All of Hazel’s nights on this earth, 1,465 of them, were sweeter and soothed with her chupons (binkies, pacifiers, etc.) as near-constant companions. She loved the texture against her face, the meditative sound and feel as she manipulated the plastic in her mouth, and the assuredness of their presence and promise. Yet as with many tools we humans cling to for comfort, they outlived their purpose, the drawbacks now outweighing the draw.

Hazel understands this, solemnly vowing to relinquish her childhood charms as she embraces what she believes is near-adulthood on her fifth trip around the sun. I know this too. And still, it’s awful difficult. I loathe the thought of excising an inkling of coziness from my girl, keenly aware as I am of the heartache this beautiful life has in store. I also dread my own farewell -- to both her babyhood and this long-desired chapter of my story. But, despite the pang of preemptive loss, the rightness rings true.

Each night this week, she ceded one cherished chupon (did I mentioned she crafted a collection?), until only her favorite was left. This, she saved for our promised trip to Build-A-Bear. I watched closely as her tiny hands surrendered her treasure, kissing it goodbye with a secret wish as it disappeared amid stuffing, sparkles and thread. She was proud, resolute, and yes, damn brave if you ask me.

Like all acts of courage, it's not one and done. There are tears, tirades, bargaining, begging and woeful wishing for a different outcome. But together we’re learning it’s ok to mourn a loss and ride the resulting raging river of emotion, come what may.

So while John and Hazel are not the same, both are my teachers, reminding me anew of the better traits I hope to cultivate in my own character; to choose what’s right over caving for the sake of creature comforts, to trust in the larger order of things, and to gracefully greet another day for as long as I am able.

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