Friday, July 31, 2015


Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you're scared to death.
- Earl Wilson

I had a powerful experience recently. For the first time in public I told a story about Kevin's death; it begins with a trip we took many years ago and ends with an understanding of how lucky I am. It was easier to tell than I expected, I suspect in part because the audience was very supportive and included many people who loved him. It was also relatively easy because I had done both the emotional and the artistic work ahead of time. I was ready. I had faced the dragons of grief and vulnerability; they had nothing to scare me with in that moment.

Afterwards, many people said many kind and loving things. I am honored that the story was meaningful to them. A comment I heard more than once was, "You're so brave." I don't know. Telling that story wasn't an act of bravery, I felt like it was time to tell this and so I did. The stage, oddly enough, is a often a safe place for me. There are no dragons there.

When I have I felt the need to be brave?
  • I was brave when I didn't run screaming out of the exam room when we were first told his diagnosis, knowing what it meant and yet having no idea how hard it would be. It took no bravery to love him and take care of him.
  • I was brave when I stood up and walked out of the room he died in, walked away from his body, walked into an uncertain and undesired future.
  • I was brave when I stood for a couple of hours, hugging everyone who came to his memorial service even though I wanted to hide in the dark for a long, long time. I love the people, I hated why we were there and I wanted nothing more than to bury myself. I understood that they needed contact with me and so I stayed until the end.
  • I was brave when I closed the door to our home for the last time, the home we shared. 
  • And more than anything these days, I am brave when I take small steps towards living again. Cooking. Laughing without hesitation. Swallowing down the fear and moving forward.
I have found bravery is necessary in the small moments, the things that seem like that shouldn't be that hard. Staying still. Standing up. Hugging. Closing a door. Opening others. The big things I just do because there isn't really a clear alternative. Standing on stage and talking? That's not brave, it's easy for me (I know not for everyone, but I'm talking about my experience). Not running away right after the performance? That took courage. 

Me, telling how lucky I am
to have loved and grieved.
I like the blurriness,
it captures how I was feeling.

Photo (c) Mark Goldman
Most of the people I know who have lost a spouse agree with me: We have faced our worst fear and we are still here, sometimes unwillingly, but still here. Bravery now isn't a matter of facing down dragons but being willing to remain in a world that feels unfamiliar. To keep breathing and trust that eventually we might actually be glad to be here. 

I am more grateful than I can state to everyone who has been so kind to me. I appreciate their love and their own bravery, reaching out of their fear to make contact. It is a fearful thing, seeing the face of loss that may eventually be their own. 

It may be that making contact is the bravest thing of all. Beyond dragons, beyond the small steps, simply being in the world when it is cold and unfamiliar, trusting that it may eventually again become warm, that, for me, is bravery. Part of me wants to run from hope as fast and as far as I can, yet I stay.
I am still here. 

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Beautiful Laura!
    So glad you are a friend of mine!

  2. Wow.......another thoughtful and thought provoking entry that I will read aloud to anyone that will listen. Thank You.

  3. Thank You Laura. I think people use the term "brave" when they are in awe of what a person accomplishes and they have great respect for you.

    1. I expect you're right, Sally. It is always an honor, just not the way I see myself.


True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
Related Posts with Thumbnails