I’m not the first to think the words “courage” and “courageous” are too often misused, nor will I be the last. Having served in the military and worked extensively with police and firemen, where courage is encountered every day, I can’t help but grit my teeth when I hear about a “courageous” producer/director making a film, or a “courageous” politician pushing an unpopular bill, or a “courageous” athlete.
Look up pilot Chelsey Sullenberger, who landed the U.S. Airways plane in the Hudson and you’ll find the word “courageous” everywhere. “Courageous”? I do think that what he did was amazing, but courageous? No. He took off on what was a routine flight, not expecting anything out of the ordinary, and when things went very wrong he reacted as he was trained. He used his skills. Courage had nothing to do with it.
Geraldine Ferraro, predating Sarah Palin by 24 years as a V.P. candidate was called “courageous” for being pro-choice. How is that courageous? Oh, and John McCain, quoted in an interview with People magazine in 2008 said of Palin “[s]he’s taken on special interests since she ran for the PTA and the city council and mayor. The courage, I guess, is what most impressed me.” I’m not sorry – that’s not courage.
I don’t need to go on. I’ll get to the real point: today, one of my staff died. He had pancreatic, liver and a few other cancers. When we speak of people who die from cancer or some other like disease, we often use the words “after a courageous battle with cancer.”
The end came swift for Robert – not much more than 24 hours from his collapse – and his was indeed a battle. He beat the odds several times over, enduring great pain and ravaging effects of various chemotherapies and new instances of cancers.
And yet this larger than life person was always upbeat and did not let it show. Oh, he would tell you of his personal struggles…but only if you asked. He came in to work this past Monday, went in for a chemo treatment on Tuesday and on Thursday, after more than a year, his body couldn’t take any more.
I think in this case, “courageous” does describe Robert and his battle to not let the disease rob him of living his life until he was overwhelmed.