The French, however, make up for their annoying traits in a big way. A very big way.
Over the past two years, I have met all sorts of French people. Doctors, chefs, homeless people, nuns, paramedics, taxi drivers, fleamarket vendors, French Muslims, shopkeepers, restaurant owners, rich French, poor French, funny French, rude French, florist, hairdressers… You name it, I have met them. And no matter who they are or what they do, they say one thing to me. And that one thing melts my heart every time. It redeems them for everything. And there is nothing equivalent in America.
What is this thing that they say to me? It is something so gentle, so profound, so thoughtful, so wise, so historic, so encompassing that I feel like the French really have a soul like no one else.
The first time I heard it I was at Notre Dame Church. There was a nun dressed in a gray habit smiling at me as I was about to leave. I asked her if I could have a picture with her because she was so freaking adorable. After we took our picture, she placed her hands on top of my hands and said two words. These two magical words: “Bon Courage.” It basically means to wish someone well but when people say it to me it literally means, “Have Courage.” In all my life, I have never heard anything as wonderful as that. I just think it’s such a noble thing to say, “Bon Courage.” Those two words mean so much. Courage is everything for me, and without it, I will crumble.
I started to think this week about what courage really is. It’s different than being daring. Daring has a sense of adventure to it. Courage is doing something that scares you that does not necessarily have a fun side effect. I am not daring but I am courageous. I have not always been courageous by choice but by force and necessity. Do I want to be courageous? Nope. I want to hide under a rock, mostly. However, I don’t have that choice. Having ALS, this disease forces you to be courageous. Not necessarily for yourself but for the people around you. I have to be courageous for my daughter. (I don’t have to be courageous for my husband because he has enough courage for both of us.)
I asked myself yesterday what is the most courageous thing I have ever done. For me, I think the most courageous thing that I have ever done is to face the reality of ALS. From day 2 after being diagnosed with ALS, 90% of the time I just march forward. Day 1 of being diagnosed with ALS was just a fucking blur but I pulled myself together by the second day. Not to toot my own horn, but I really did. I didn’t do it for me. I did it for Grace and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Did I want to go to the hospital to have a pacer inserted into my diaphragm so I could breathe better? Did I want my lungs to collapse like they did that day? Did I want to be in pain for eight weeks and become nearly addicted to oxycodone? Obviously not, but I did it anyway. I put my fear behind me and courageously went into that operating room… For Grace. It’s easy to be courageous for the love of your life.
This is me two weeks after my surgery waiting to go into the doctor's office for a post-op check-up. I am completely jacked-up on oxycodone and yet still in excruciating pain. Didn't think that I could go on...but I did.
This little Italian Greyhound that I named Ines was my consolation prize. She got me through those tough eight weeks.
So whenever I hear the words, “Bon Courage”, it really touches me. My usual answer is, “Merci, je l’aurai.”
So now, it’s your turn. What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done? Did you leave a bad marriage? Did you start your own business and leave a comfortable job? Did you go to AA? Did you raise a child on your own? Did you give a speech at the United Nations? Did you go outside of your comfort zone? What have you done to be courageous? And I’m talking about the absolute most courageous thing you have ever done. Not regular courage. It’s not bragging, it’s communicating, so tell me! Pat yourself on the back and expose yourself. Bon Courage!