When I was young I had many heroes. I still have a few, not so many in my cynical old age but a few.
There are a great many brave people who I admire and respect. All the rescue services, who put their own lives in danger to rescue those in peril on sea and land. There are those who protect us in many fields and often lose their lives in the doing.
There are the so-called ‘ordinary’ people who battle against odds that would floor us, those that endure famine, earthquake and other disasters. Life is full of bravery. I will have missed so many but today I want to tell of my own home grown hero, someone whose courage leaves me slack-jawed in awe.
My sister. Some of you will know she is embarking on training with a new guide dog. It is not her first; she has been through 16 years of guide dogs. So what’s the big deal then? You may ask. Well this time around is different, this time there is no sight to help. There is very little hearing to aid.
She has always had a hearing problem and when we were children it was my job to protect her from bullying. She was my older sister and I resented that she wasn’t looking after me. I resented that she seemed to get more attention than me. Selfish? Yes. What are small children but self-contained bundles of self survival, and that equals selfishness. Until empathy has developed selfish is a child. I didn’t actually know her very well as she was sent away, to a special boarding school, when I was a toddler, so holidays were all the time we had. It was as adults we became friends. As adults I became to appreciate her more.
Her sight has relentlessly deteriorated over the years. Through it all she has smiled. She has worked and earned her own living, she has travelled half way across the world to live in a foreign land for four years. She has had fun, made friends and enjoyed her life. She eventually had to learn how to use a cane to get around, then she had to give up employment. Finally her sight became such that a guide dog was deemed best. They gave her another lease of life as she approached retirement age.
This time around though, what little sight she had when first she trained with the dogs, has vanished. Gone. Nothing. Now, with one step in the 7th decade doorway, she trains with her new dog in complete nothingness. Each day I watch as she leaves the house, with a smile, determined to win, back straight, head up. If the day goes badly I hold her hand and tell her all will be well. She sleeps in utter exhaustion each night and the next day she leaves with a smile, back straight, head high and begins again.
She doesn’t have to do this. No judgement call if she decides enough is enough. She could sit in the relative safety of her home and go out when others can take her. Has she even considered it? I doubt it. Life is for living.
I am sure that confronted with nothing, I would not be able to trust myself out there amongst the people and the traffic. Trust myself on kerbs and around obstacles that abound, connected only to a dog, however marvellous the dog is. I would be terrified. Is my sister terrified? I don’t know, she would never say. However depressing the training may have been, within a couple of hours she is smiling again and re-playing the mistakes to correct them before the next day. I am not a fan of the word but today I say Awesome! She has so much courage. She is my hero.
Of course this is not just about my sister, this about all those millions who do not choose a life of such challenges but nevertheless have them, who do not confront each day of difficulty because an adrenalin rush fuels them. This is aboutthose, you may be one, or you maybe know them, who wake each morning and ‘live well’ despite every obstacle thrown at them.
This is an awestruck old lady writing who says, ‘I don’t know how you do it, but you are, all of you, especially my sister, a constant inspiration’.