I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
– Nelson Mandela –
Fear is a human feeling and we all have it, no one is exempted. Every time I was scared, my Mom would tell me “when something or someone scare you, look at them in the eyes. When your fear has a name, you’ll realize that there’s nothing to be scared about”.
Years later I was facing the biggest and scariest fear of my life: my Mom’s illness and her death. My aunt and I would divide our days to be able to stay by her side as much as we could. When my aunt stayed at home taking care of her, I’d run out to see doctors doing my best to find a cure that could save her life.
Days were going by and my Mom would get worse. The doctor prescribed morphine to numb the pain but to no avail. The drugs would put her in a high delirious status, she’d have hallucinations, feel the presence of spirits, talk out loud in madness saying random things and sometimes her pain was so unbearable that she’d scream from the top of her lungs. She was in agony and watching her was excruciating but as much as part of me wanted to run away, I didn’t give up and stayed with her until the end. I’d lay with her on the bed taking part to her madness and interacting with it so that she wouldn’t feel alone in her parallel world. When the doctor told me she was terminal I was in the room alone, I felt like a hole had just opened under my feet and taken me straight to hell.
The morning she died I was holding her in my arms. I had not been sleeping for 4 days in a row and was exhausted but there I was at the edge of her bed, while she was screaming from pain and asking for help. What was happening was so intense and unbearable that my aunt and my uncle were not able to stay in the room, it was too much to take on. It was just the two of us.
I was fighting with her as usual, but this time the dialogue was only in my head. She’d take the oxygen mask off of her face as she couldn’t breathe, I’d put it back on, she’d take it off, I’d put it back on again. This push and pull went on for quite a while. I felt so powerless and at the same time I was so angry at her, I was telling her mentally “Why are you doing this to me? Why don’t you want to fight? Could you please at least once in your life listen to me? I’m trying to save you!” Every now and then I’d faint from exhaustion and then get back to my senses and kept watching her.
Then at some point, I released my anger and looked at her face; she looked like a little kid. In that moment I understood I couldn’t fight anymore, I had to let her go.
So I got closer and thought:“It’s OK Mom. I’m gonna be fine. I’m ready if you decide to go. I am not scared anymore”. As if she had read my mind, she turned on the side, I took her in my arms and I started massaging her back. She begun quieting down, took her last breath and passed away. And then was Silence, a Complete, Peaceful and Infinite Silence. It was a moment of pure Beauty.
I had taken my mother by the hand to the threshold of the afterlife. She had crossed the gate and I had to head back. It is hard for me to pick the right words to describe the feeling of that moment. It was like being in another dimension that doesn’t belong to the physical realm where I could see the greatness of what some people call “God”. That morning I looked at death into the eyes and it ceased to scare me.
I went out of the room to call my aunt and my uncle. As they walked in they broke into desperate tears. I couldn’t cry, not a single tear streamed down my face that morning. I was just there in awe observing the scene. I turned to my family and said: “I’m gonna go outside and take a walk”. I stepped out the doors of the hospital building, it was February 22nd, 2012 6.30 am, a new day was about to start. I looked up at the sky, it was a beautiful sunny day and I was grateful for it. I had the chance to witness one of the biggest mysteries of Life and it changed me forever.
To me, Courage is being able to face fear and the darkness of the world. It’s embracing my own darkness and using it as a motivation rather than seeing it as something that can block me. It’s choosing to be human and allowing myself to be seen in my nakedness and to feel my emotions. Yes, the world is a scary place at times, the good and the evil have always existed and always will. Yes, life challenges me with painful moments.
Darkness is nothing but a place where light doesn’t shine. Have you ever wondered why people like so much sunset and sunrise? This how I see it: “When a day begins, a night ends and when a night ends, a day begins. Light cannot exist without the dark and so the dark without the light, they have to dance together so that life can be meaningful” To live in my light I must be able to acknowledge my darkness.
People who made a real difference in the world have faced their deepest fears and turned them into something great for humanity. Think of Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison and then became president of South Africa and gave an end to Apartheid. Think of Martin Luther King Jr. ’s dream with his civil rights movement which caused his assassination. Think of Mother Teresa who founded the Missionaries of Charity and lived most of her life among people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy or tuberculosis. Think of Gandhi who led India to independence employing nonviolent civil disobedience and was assassinated as well. Do you think those people were not scared? They were indeed but they didn’t let their fears stand in the way of their dreams.
In order to walk into the darkness, the light has to come from within you. Go out there and live your Life fearlessly!
’Til the next one!