By Kizzy Katawonga, Uganda:
Last week was a difficult one for me.
I laid my cousin who I grew up with to rest. She died from cancer.
Growing up together under the same roof, having known her from childhood and seeing her totally transformed by this malignant disease was exceedingly distressful. It's terrifying how much sickness can change a person from the lively and promising spark of hope of life to a distressing and morbid shell of despair unto death. I tried to find something positive to hang on to as the days passed by before her untimely demise. Something, anything to help me believe that life really isn't meaningless. It was only at her funeral service that I finally saw something in all the tragedy that inspired me. Courage!
My cousin showed the most incredible courage I have personally witnessed in my recollection. Having her body destroyed, one organ at a time, being helpless in bed unable to do anything for herself and yet having always been a super strong and independent young woman – that took courage. Nevertheless, she was remained pleasant, smiled and encouraged others, saying to those around her that she wasn't dying. She made plans for when she would get out of hospital, she sang and thanked God for each new day she woke up.
When I listened to testimony after testimony of what she went through in the last couple of months, I was made more aware of the incredible courage she had to have to stay alive so long. And it shamed me greatly. Why? Because I have cowered at so many things in my own life, crying how hard it is and how I can't go on; but in light of what my cousin went through, the pain, helplessness, degradation on a daily basis, mine are really very light afflictions as the Good Book calls it.
Looking her in the eyes as she battled to breathe through a machine and struggled to eat, how could I then complain about having missed lunch or walked home because I don't have enough for the taxi fare? Sitting and listening to her eulogy in the funeral service, I realised that we must all stop making excuses for ourselves and grab hold of the courage to live our lives fully and without limit.
It's been said he who has health has wealth. Life is such an incredible gift that we have an even more incredible capacity to take for granted. The Good Book says, why be anxious about what you will eat or wear? Is the body more precious than clothing and life more precious than food? But sometimes, it's only a confrontation with someone in far worse circumstances, someone dying, to see how good we have it and that the things we fear aren't worth fearing at all.
We fear to pursue our dreams because we're afraid of what people will think or that we will fail? But is that really a worse outcome than dying? As long as we have life, we have tremendous hope.
The reality I saw in my cousin's ordeal is that it takes courage to die but it takes even more courage to live. Every day we are faced with challenges some small, some seemingly insurmountable but anything that would lead to our physical death. Most of what we fear is quite trivial when compared to that.
So I have learned from my cousin to be very courageous and to live fully, not cowering back because of station, opinion or inability but press on wholly. For there comes for us all a time, sooner or later when we have to check out of this world. I feel my cousin died too young. She had a bright future ahead of her and she was bold and courageous to chase after that future with reckless faith. Who knows how far she could have gone, what heights she could have reached? But the bigger question to me now is how far can I go? How high can I climb if only I am courageous enough to live? How about you?
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