Courage comes in many forms

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 10, 2006

How do you define courage? We often think of bravery as something that is displayed on the battle field or in some other moment of crisis.

But there are other kinds of courage, too. Many who have never fired a shot in anger or rescued someone from a flaming house lead lives that are every bit as brave.

A file of e-mails on my computer traces a story of the kind of quiet courage that does not demand attention but simply deals with adversity head on.

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The e-mails are from my friend and former colleague Marty Watson.

They begin in 2003, not long after I learned that Marty had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Marty was one of those energetic people who was always involved in some kind of good cause in addition to her work. She never met a stranger, and she had a wide circle of friends.

I had written a note to Marty letting her know that I was thinking about her – and praying for her. Many others were thinking about her and praying for her, too, and she began sending us irregular e-mails with updates on her battle.

Sometimes the news was good, but it always seemed to be followed by a set back of some kind.

Yet Marty’s reports were unflinchingly straightforward. Not once in those e-mails did she yield to despair or self-pity or even anger. There is a line in the poem “Invictus” that described her: “In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud.”

She acknowledged the pain from the surgeries and radiation and chemotherapy, but she never complained about it. And she never wavered from her faith.

She continued to work on Montgomery Parents, the magazine that she and her husband Jim had started in 1995.

In one of her e-mails, after updating us on a scheduled surgery, she added: “Other than my back pain, things are going well.

It is still very hard to sit for any length of time and, especially, to work at my desk, but I am going to do all of my own work on the magazine this month, regardless.

My specific prayer request for this day is regarding the loss of our dog, Furbie.

She was hit by a car and killed almost instantly this morning when a vehicle came through our back alley and did not see her.

If you aren’t a pet lover, this may not mean much to you, but Furbie was a family member and Jim’s buddy who he shared all his deepest thoughts with while they walked every evening.

As a matter of fact, Jim told me recently that Furbie was the best gift I had ever given him.

As all of our friends and family know, Furbie was the first to greet you at the door and was soooo happy to see us after the briefest of absences. She will be greatly missed.”

The last e-mail from Marty came just before Christmas. Her most recent tests had been the most promising in a long time. All of us hoped that it was the beginning of a string of good news.

Then, on Jan. 7 came an e-mail from Jim. Marty was too sick to write, and it was obvious that the situation was deteriorating.

On Feb. 5 Jim sent a last e-mail to Marty’s circle of friends. Marty had been admitted to the hospital on Jan. 27 and had died peacefully on Feb. 4. She was 55.

It was Hemingway, I believe, who defined courage as grace under pressure.

By that definition, Marty was one of the bravest persons I ever knew.

Bill Brown can be contacted at 377 Quail Hollow Drive, Dadeville AL 36853 or by e-mail at

(c)2006 William B. Brown