Simple Acts of Bravery

Clio LeungJune 5, 2023CourageFiction

Artwork by Arina Stetsiuk, age 14, Ukraine

It takes one leap of faith. Just one leap of faith to let go of whatever is holding you back and move forward.

At least that’s what Amy’s father had told her. Amy was never an extrovert. She was always reserved and often kept to herself. Amy was often perceived as a wallflower–never liked to draw attention to herself the way her brothers did and she was content with that. Often she had to carry the responsibilities and burdens that came with being an older sister with no mother and a secret she couldn’t bring herself to tell her siblings.

Amy’s father had recently been diagnosed with cancer. He had always been her rock and protector, the one who encouraged her to pursue whatever it was she had in mind despite any struggles she might be facing. A week before the summer began, Amy’s father sat her down in his office and told her the news. She was left speechless–wracked with agony and pain. How she never noticed her father’s demeanor, his tiredness, and the concealed pain he had been hiding so well is all that went through her head. Frankly, Amy couldn’t think. She refused to think and come to terms with what her father had just told her. Her father had also bestowed the responsibility of telling her siblings the news as her father was due in the hospital in a couple of hours and he did not want to startle his children.

That same night, Amy’s siblings, Eric and Sam, questioned where their father had gone. Eric and Sam were twins, both 10 years old with a bright future ahead of them. Pacing back and forth, Amy’s mind was overwhelmed. No amount of courage could have prepared her for this moment. It took one leap of faith to have a hard conversation such as this with her siblings, but another to accept the terms and keep her head forward for her father.

Reluctantly, Amy asked her brothers to take a seat on the couch and listen attentively to what she had to say. “I’m not sure how to properly tell you this. I’m not sure if I’m even doing it the right way. I don’t know anything at all.” Amy bit her lip and stared at the ground, refusing to make eye contact with her brothers.

“Dad is sick. He- he has cancer.” There was a long silence. Not a single sound was made. “The doctors requested that he stay in the hospital until he has fully recovered — and I am unsure about how long that will be.” Amy wiped a tear away and looked up. Eric and Sam were completely still, their brows beginning to furrow with worry and concern.

Amy’s heart felt heavy, like the room was getting smaller and smaller and she had no control over it. Each breath was getting heavier with every inhale and exhale. It was the first time she had verbally acknowledged her father’s illness. She clutched her hand to her chest trying to get a grasp of herself, yet all she wished for was to make sure her brothers were going to be okay. To her surprise, Eric and Sam slowly walked toward her and hugged her. “Will he be okay? He’s going to recover right?” Sam asked.

Amy’s heavy breathing stopped. She looked into Sam and Eric’s eyes, contemplating the things she would have to start doing to hold their family together as their father recovered in the hospital. “I’ll always be here. I’m never leaving”.

It wasn’t easy being a 17-year-old who was only supposed to be thinking about which college she wanted to go to. Regardless, Amy did everything she could to keep her family together.

Her brothers didn’t fully understand the concept of cancer and how life-threatening it was, but it was okay with Amy because as long as she was there to protect them, she knew everything would be fine as her father slowly recovered in the hospital.

Day after day, Amy went home to her brothers with a smile on her face, clenching her teeth to fight her tears back at the dinner table, then letting it all out once she got to the bathroom. It was terrifying. She didn’t have anyone to hold onto. People at her school didn’t understand her, so oftentimes she felt lonely.

Before school, Amy always woke up 15 minutes earlier than normal to prepare breakfast for her siblings and get them ready for school. Sometimes she would skip her after-school curriculums to make trips to the hospital to visit her father. And oftentimes those trips included Sam and Eric who were willing to see their father as well. On the seventh day of the ninth month, Amy, Eric, and Sam all took yet another trip to the hospital. As they opened the door to the room, all three of them saw their father, weak, yet filled with a smile nevertheless.

Amy never complained. She loved her siblings and her father, and she knew that taking care of them was the most important thing she could do. It wasn’t always like this though. There were plenty of days when the stress would take a toll on her. Days where she would be exhausted, days where she felt like she was at her breaking point. But the support she received from her teachers, a few of her peers she never expected to talk to, and most importantly, her brothers, was more than enough for her to keep going. To her, it was touching seeing the number of people reaching out to her, expressing their admiration for her courage in taking on what she had to for her family. Juggling different aspects of her life throughout the day was something she learned to become good at. This included everything from maintaining her good grades, to making sure the mental and physical state of her siblings was healthy.

It was these simple acts of bravery that led Eric, Amy, and Sam to where they were now. Amy never faked anything with her brothers. She didn’t want to. But at the same time, it brought a sharp pain in her heart seeing that Eric and Sam were growing up fast without their father being present all the time. However, somewhere in between all the trips to the hospital was good news. The doctors said that the chemotherapy was working and that it would just take patience and time. Amy was ecstatic. She was joyful and the feeling felt miraculous. She went home and shared the news with her brothers, who also reacted the same way. Amy felt like she could breathe a little easier, and that night she knew that although her father was getting better, she just had to continue being strong for her siblings.

It had been a couple of years now, and things were easier to live with. Amy’s father, for one, had been released from the hospital and was working from home. He tried his best to take back the moments he had missed with Eric and Sam, and Amy too. He still had a long road to recovery, but there was an unspoken pride her father had for Amy. His daughter had held onto herself and her brothers without failure, and Amy’s father had never admired anyone more in his life. As Amy grew older and older, she also began to realize that she was more than capable of anything that landed in front of her. Amy looked back at being that same 17-year-old girl who had just found out that her father had cancer. Now, at 19 years old, sitting at the dinner table with no chairs empty, Amy could not help but shed a tear for how far she had come. Now, she was ready to take on whatever challenges lay ahead of her, knowing that she had the strength and courage to do so.

Clio Leung is a 13 year-old living in Taipei, Taiwan. She enjoys drawing and playing games during her free time.