Heroes. The term can often apply to lots of different people. Not like the “super” kind, but rather the ones we see at the end of the local news broadcast. You know, those among us who rescued a cat from a tree, helped an elderly woman cross the street, or started a book drive to provide new books to homeless children. Heroes.
Then you have the bold, stepped in front of a train, dove head first into danger heroes. Risking their lives and doing what many would not have the strength to do if given the chance. Heroes.
Well, kudos to the above categories. And heck, kudos to anyone who has earned the title of hero in any way, shape or form. We all need you to inspire us and encourage us to greatness.
Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about a different kind of hero. These are individuals who attained their hero status not by what they’ve done, but by what they’ve survived. I think above all, they are the ones who truly inspire us the most. Often they receive equal admiration and fame as those who jump in front of buses, but with a major price tag. They have suffered and when the rest of the world moves onto the next big story, they are left not only with the letdown, but the grief.
Our friend Dr. A is a hero on many levels. Two years ago he would have been a hero based upon his actions alone, one of the first two types of heroes I described. He is a facial plastic surgeon and many of his patients have been severely disfigured due to surgery to remove a malignancy, domestic violence, or other injuries. He used his skills to reconstruct, rebuild and restore them. Can you imagine what it would feel like to look in a mirror and see a face that resembled your own after months or years of feeling unrecognizable? Like a master architect he is able to put the pieces back together, often when there are not blueprints or clues to follow. A hero for so many.
Two years ago, this dear friend became a hero for another reason. After an accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, he was forced to learn to rebuild as a patient. His recovery and strength was beyond inspiring. I know he must have had his bad days, the angry/sad/depressed days, but he was a fighter. A survivor. He never gave up and even fought to be strong enough to return to the operating room because of his passion for bringing healing to those in need. A hero.
Then, almost a year ago, after a year that had been filled with such uphill battles and suffering, something unthinkable happened. Dr. A’s beautiful 16 year old son was killed in a car accident. (here is my post from last February about it). Once again he and his family were hit hard with suffering that I cannot even wrap my head around. He had every excuse to curl up into a little ball and be done. Done with life, done with joy, done with it all. And why not? Would anyone really blame him? From the ashes of that terrible 14 months rose a hero. One of my heroes. I don’t think he would really think of himself as a hero, or even know how much I admire him, and his dear wife Dr./Mrs. A. But, they are my heroes.
Honestly, I wish that they weren’t. I wish that I could push the rewind button on life back to two years ago when they were heroes by deeds alone. They are the kind of hero that we all need, but no one really wants to be. They breathe a fresh perspective into our world of stale weightless complaints. We whine about having to go up a bunch of stairs and then realize it is a gift to do so. We complain about our child’s behavior and remember what an incredible blessing it is to have and hold them still.
Just this past week an old friend from high school and his wife lost their 2 1/2 year old son. Heroes. I haven’t looked at my girls the same since. Their motto is “Cherish Every Moment” and it could not be more true. They are heroes because in the face of an ugly disease that robbed them of their only child they chose to cherish, to live and to find joy. Their grief is so, so deep, but so is their joy.
I can’t imagine there are many days that go by that don’t find Dr. A and his wife in tears. The fact that they get up in the morning, get dressed, and choose to keep fighting for life and fighting for joy is what inspires me. That is why they are my heroes. They are standing and they are survivors. And I am changed and so grateful to know them.
Who are your heroes?