There are many kinds of courage: there is the brilliant and daring deed, where the drama is sharply enacted on the burning sand of tragedy; and there is the quiet steadfast kind that is not seen but which is equally beautiful, for it faces the elements of danger in the loneliness of the night. When all is said, which outlasts the other?
One of the most courageous women I have ever known had never left her own country, and was never connected with any spectacular activity. Nevertheless, while engaged in commonplace, everyday duties, and in living her life as she felt it should be lived, she showed herself as courageous as anyone could ever wish to be.
While her children were still young her husband died, leaving a farm as well as heavy debts from his long illness. Both farm and land were neglected, and forty years ago they didn't have modern implements and it was difficult to work the red clay of North Georgia. Besides, she had had no practical business experience and was utterly unprepared for the task. Behind her, however, was the tradition of her mother and her mother's mother, courageous women who had helped rebuild the South from the smoking ruins of the Civil War. Before her she had a goal: the education of her three children so that they would be adequately prepared to make their own way in the world — better prepared than she was.
She started right in and mastered the details of farm administration. She herself animated the tenants and personally supervised the men in the fields and finally, by hard work and shrewd management (she picked the cotton early one season saving it from bitter frost), she turned the farm into a productive, prosperous business. She educated her children and lived to see them successful and her grandchildren beginning to make their own way in the world.
Through all of this, she didn't become cold and calculating, a mercenary schemer. Not in the least. From first to last she was the same — absolutely honest, sincere and devoted to her family. She wasn't religious in the sense of a strict church-goer, but she did believe that there is a God and a right way to live, and never compromised her ideals in the slightest degree.
Naturally, she was very independent. She could never have stood to be a burden on her family and it was always a great satisfaction to her that when the family was in serious financial difficulties it was her small savings which helped tide things over. Her thriftiness was often a help in smaller things, also. When someone needed a box or a piece of string, she had it. I don't believe anyone in the family will ever throw away a piece of string or an unused postage stamp without feeling a guilty twinge of his conscience.
Another thing she was proud of was her mind. She was a careful and thorough reader of everything from Shakespeare to the daily newspaper, and with the years her mind never dimmed, but was as clear as ever until the last few weeks of her fatal illness.
Neither she nor anyone else in the family ever displayed their feelings in sentimental outbursts. They didn't have to, for the love was simply there, in every act, always true and steady. In fact, her whole life was a proof of her love for us all. She helped forge a strong family group where everyone knows that in time of need the rest will be there: one dependable thing in a confused and uncertain world.
She died a week ago, but as long as there is something good in any one of us she will never truly die.
(From Sunrise magazine, April 1954; copyright © 1954 Theosophical University Press)