Are there some things in life worth believing in ... whether they are true or not?
Like most of my generation, I was raised by a veteran of the Second World War. Tom Brokaw labeled them “The Greatest Generation” and as I’ve mentioned before, I agree. At a moment’s notice, they left their homes for the local recruiting station and into a life and death struggle against the Fascism of Hitler and Mussolini, and the treachery of imperialist Japan. Were they perfect? Of course not. We are all flawed, but they answered the call and saved the free world as we know it.
As such, my Dad expected from an early age that I stand up straight, respect the flag and fight for what’s right. He also told me never to be afraid to defend myself. He’d say, “Never start the fight but never run away and swing as hard as you can to win it.” My dad wasn’t encouraging me to fight but to stand up and defend myself.
The first movie I ever viewed in a theater wasn’t a Disney cartoon. My dad took me to see an almost four-hour epic starring John Wayne. I sat as a 5-year-old, riveted to the screen, as I watched Davy Crockett fighting like a tiger against overwhelming odds, giving his life for his cause. The impact of “The Alamo” shaped my life. Later, Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer in the highly fictionalized “They Died with Their Boots On,” and others ... all epic struggles of fighting with courage on both sides of the battle. I absorbed these stories and they’ve become part of my DNA, understanding they are more fiction than fact. The point is they are stories of perseverance and courage.
In my teens I became almost obsessed with learning of heroic acts of bravery against insurmountable odds. A common prayer was “Dear God, when I grow up let me fight in ‘the battle for my life’ and overcome.” Be careful what you wish for. Yesterday, that prayer came to mind with regret as the impact of my chemo ravaged my body and mind and I felt as though my prayer had unfortunately come true, as I am fighting for my life. My enemy, as most of you know is stage 4 gastric cancer.
Fatigue does make cowards of us all and yesterday morning was my moment in the darkness. For those of you who follow me on social media, I’m sorry if I alarmed you with my posts. I awoke yesterday morning as a frightened little boy, clinging to my store-bought-faux-fur coonskin cap wishing I were as brave as Davy ... but was not.
Today is different. My Crockett cap is firmly upon my head. The frightened little boy cowering yesterday in a cancer-ridden 66-year-old body, today feels strong, confident, and unafraid. I believe I can and will beat this cancer. I’m enthused by the challenge and the fight is back on.
Where does this fight come from? The books, stories and movies of my youth that encourage me still, play in my head. Heroic speeches ring in my ears. The belief that there are things worth fighting for ... especially your life, against an indiscriminate, unfair disease. I know that someday, somewhere, someone is going to beat this cancer. Why not here and now? Why not me?
There is a song I played for my kids; it’s titled “Give it all you’ve got!” It began with the lyrics ... “Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, different colors too. Yes, it’s true, yes, you know it’s true. But a fact of all different heroes, they give it their best shot. Every time win or not, they give it all they’ve got.” I think it encouraged them, as it still does me. I sing this song in my head in my weakest moments.
The examples, stories or fables of others inspire us. They give us courage and often the ability to fight when we’d rather run. They strengthen us to stand back up when we get knocked down. And I wonder ... why is there a move to remove and tear down our traditional heroes at a time they are needed most? (A subject for another time) Scan the records of history and show me anything positive that has ever begun by banning books, erasing history, or trying to change culture by force.
Let me leave you with this little speech from a fun movie and is delivered by Robert Duvall in “Secondhand Lions:”
“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good. That honor, courage and virtues mean everything. That power and money, money and power mean nothing; that Good always triumphs over Evil; and I want you to remember this: That Love, true Love never dies. Doesn’t matter if any of this is true or not. You see a man should believe in these things because these are the things worth believing in.”
I always look for and believe the best.
What do you look for and believe?
Gary W. Moore is a freelance columnist, speaker, and author of three books including the award-winning, critically acclaimed, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and at www.garywmoore.com