This morning I was saddened to find out that Elie Wiesel had died two days ago. He was a holocaust survivor who wrote about his experience at Auschwitz in a trilogy of books known as the ‘Night’ trilogy.

This man was truly brave. He did all he had to do with the little he had to survive and to help his aging father survive. His books are honest and without flair; poignant and interesting.

Bravery does not mean doing death defying stunts for the sake of it. Courage is not about walking through a wall of fire to show everyone that you can.

Bravery is doing something unpleasant, painful and perhaps even undignified in order to survive. It is about admitting when you are wrong and apologizing. It’s about telling the whole truth and being ready to face the consequences. It is about knowing that you are in a shitty situation but you see what can be done to manage it. Bravery is about staring your problem in the eye and knowing that this, too, shall pass.

I think bravery is best described in Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’.

Perhaps change that last line to make it more gender fluid, but you catch my drift.

I remember one very demanding shift at work where the patients were really demanding and they were coming non-stop and the doctors were being unco-operative. Finally, my junior nurse and I were able to take a break. When our half hour was up, we looked at each other because we were dreading leaving the staff room. But then my junior looked me in the eye and said ‘come on! Let’s not be cowards!’ And we faced the remainder of our day head on. 

And you know what? 7pm came and our day and hardship was over.

I find cowardice such a despicable quality. I associate cowardice with a lack of character, with people who do not live, but just exist. Life is all about challenges and hard times…but also full of triumph and good times. And at these times we can reflect and be grateful that we mustered up the strength and courage to move on.

RIP, Elie Wiesel…one of the bravest men who ever was.