Celebrating all our heroes

It’s the season of heroes. And this year, with the aftermath of Pike River, Christchurch, weird international unnatural disasters and an oil spill; as a country we really needed a win. There was a collective sense of the need for a real good time and a celebration of the good guys who really reaped the rewards of sporting resilience.

There are other heroes too. The quiet ones we don’t always celebrate or even know about but who nevertheless show a fortitude of spirit and courage deserving of honour. I didn’t want to write this column. I wanted to write another one. The one with the happy ending and miraculous recovery. The one where everyone lives happily ever after – or failing that; just lives.

About a year ago I wrote about the diagnosis of a brain tumour of a friend’s gorgeous little boy. He looks like the sort of little boy that 1950’s postcards depict; a tussle –haired blondie with a penchant for killing monsters with plastic swords. He is her beautiful baby boy and after a year of the kind of treatment that makes parents seriously consider not treating their kids at all – he’s not going to make it.

‘Sometimes’, she said, ‘there are just too many layers of hard.’ And there have been layers upon layers of hard for her and others like her this year in Christchurch. There is the rough unchartered terrain of a very sick child to negotiate and the brick wall hurdles of relationships that fracture under the strain and family that just don’t seem to get it. There is the creativity required to make a desolate quake destroyed city into a fun adventurous playground for a small child for a single Mum of limited means and unlimited imagination. Taking the remote control of the broken TV from their 3rd broken house and giving it to the small almost broken person – she told him it had super powers. Hearing that the demolition cranes and balls were in town she took him in his wheel chair and let him believe that every time he pressed the buttons he was in fact controlling the cranes and the demolition machinery. For an afternoon he was Bob the Builder’s destructive evil twin. He spent it happily smashing up an entire city with his remote control and an audience of quake battered citizens cheering him on. For that idea alone she deserves a medal.

For every layer of hard that she has weathered this year I have seen in her another layer of diamond strength resilience. Given the worst possible news any mother can receive, she refuses to ‘live in that context’. She will not open the cards with the waterfalls and the silver writing. You know the ones. She will not do flowers or sorrowful faces and it is not because she does not know what is coming or she is in denial. She nursed her terminally ill mother through the last phases of cancer and she knows better than most what the outcomes are. Dancing on the brink of the abyss of loss – dancing lightly on that edge so that her only son remembers the last times as the best times, takes the courage and grace of true heroism. Loving to the extent that you do not allow yourself to fall apart until the job is done, in the border country of loss, shows resilience beyond the rational and is truly the stuff of heroes.

We need to celebrate all our heroes - it’s just that some don’t always get the street parades they deserve.

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