Courage is as simple as saying your name

I’ve been thinking a lot about courage lately.

I met some incredibly brave

guys while at the mercy of Uncle Sam in the late 1960s. And as a journalist who

specialized for years in true-crime stories on the mainland, before becoming a

generalist, I encountered some police officers and criminals who didn’t seem to

be afraid of any of the things that scare me.

But probably the bravest

person I’ve ever met was my aunt Dorothy. She was old-school, an Irish lady who

never married, despite quite a few suitors when she was young.

Auntie

should have probably been a nun because her true love was Jesus. She was one of

those Catholic women who had a personal relationship with her God. She didn’t

just hope there was an afterlife—she knew it like I know the sun’s going to

shine between noon and three every day on Kaua`i.

Dorothy was a big

smoker—a pack a day, every day, for 40 years.

She developed lung cancer

before she reached her 65th birthday. The disease spread to her brain. That

tumor brought her down. She moved in with her baby sister, my mom.

I

stopped three or four days a week on my way home after work to see my auntie.

She’d been my godmother, and she was always there for me when I first returned

from the service and wasn’t quite in tip-top form.

It wasn’t long before

she couldn’t walk, so if I was there, I’d carry her to the bathroom.

She

always seemed like such a good person to me. What had happened to her hardly

seemed fair, and I couldn’t understand her lack of anger.

Finally, I asked

her: “Do you ever ask your God why this happened to you?”

She looked me

right in the eye and answered, “At first I said, `Why me, God?’ But then I

thought, `Why not me?'”

To my way of thinking, Dorothy was as brave as it

gets. She faced the end of her life with an equanimity I doubt I’ll be able to

muster.

One of the reasons I like my job is that I develop a readership

that consists of all kinds of folks. I’ve started to get some calls and e-mails

about my stories and columns here. Some of you are complimentary and some of

you are anything but.

I like all the feedback except for one type. No

anonymous nagging, please.

If you call and start criticizing, I’m going to

ask you your name. See, I sign every article. And in these columns, you even

get an approximation of what I look like. So it’s only fair for you to

identify yourself to me. Wanting to “dis” without showing your I.D., so to

speak, isn’t very courageous.

I’m sure my auntie would have spouted out her

name and address before she blessed me out.

And I would have

listened.

Staff writer Dennis Wilken can be reached at 245-3681 (ext.

252) and [dwilken@pulitzer.net]

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