I’ve never been a big risk taker. I don’t live my life on the edge and I certainly don’t make choices without thinking of the consequences. I’ve lived a safe life by hiding from experiences that could potentially harm me and even some that may have been good for me.
However, I believe in a person’s ability to step out of their comfort zone and do something incredibly brave. I believe that when faced with a tough or scary situation, we can look it directly in the face and beat it.
My grandfather, whom we called Papoo, was diagnosed with lung cancer in March of 2004. He began to undergo chemo immediately and seemed to be improving. He even made it to Pennsylvania, where I was going to college at the time, for my uncle’s fiftieth birthday bash in August. Unfortunately, in mid-October, he took a turn for the worse. The doctors told my family that he didn’t have much time left. That is never an easy thing to hear. Since I was away, I wanted to tell him how much he meant to me and that I loved him very much. It was difficult though to speak with him on the phone; he was in so much pain that it made it hard for him to talk. So I wrote a letter. It was very personal. I remember not letting my boyfriend at the time read it. My grandmother called to let me know they received it and that it was beautiful. I was glad I got to say my goodbyes.
Papoo passed away December 15, 2004. It was a tough loss for me as I had a special relationship with him. The memorial service was planned and my grandmother asked me to read my letter. My first reaction was anger. How could she expect me to share something so personal between my grandfather and me with an entire church? But when my grandmother asks you to do something, you better hop to it. I spent the morning of the service in my grandmother’s spare bedroom, reading and re-reading the letter. The more I thought about it, the more scared I became. I was going to expose myself and my grief to a lot of people and that’s what frightened me the most.
I summoned all my courage, grabbed my sister, walked up to the podium and read that letter. I was shaky and tearful throughout, but when I finished I felt like a new person. I had faced my fear and everything turned out fine. I have never been as proud of myself as I was that day.
Sometimes our lives and the events within them are intimidating. Without the courage to step up to the things that scare you, you never get the satisfaction of knowing what you’re capable of. Life can be terrifying but new experiences shape our lives and the people we become.
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