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Quel courage!

Last  year,  on our trip to Paris, my friend Judy arranged a private tour of the Louvre. Our guide Francois escorted us from room to room, pointing out  he highlights of that mighty museum.

“Voila Les Sabines,” said Francois. “Painted in 1799 by Jacques-Louis David.”

Look at that mother, arms stretched out, protecting her babes. Quel courage! Never have I experienced such an intense, awestruck reaction to a work of art.

I bought the postcard in the Louvre gift shop. Stateside the next week, I uploaded the photo into WordPress. It’s been sitting there for a year, waiting for some magnificent words to match the painting’s magnificence.

My plan was to say something about courage. Something remarkable.

The remarkable isn’t coming to me, but it’s time to write about Les Sabines and that brave, bold mother.

Years ago, I suffered a second trimester miscarriage. I gave birth to a baby who wouldn’t  become my little girl.

We had moved to North Carolina that spring. Grace Jean, fifteen years my senior, attended our new church. The day I came home from the hospital, she called.

“You’re very brave,” she said.

I’ve never forgotten her words. I bring them back when I need courage.

And so what I have to say about courage isn’t groundbreaking advice; it’s not remarkable.

It’s just this:  When we need it, we have it.


Maybe that human quality is indeed remarkable.

Aging, among other life events, is calling me to be courageous.

I keep Grace Jean’s words and my Les Sabines postcard as courage tokens.

What about  you?

Any tokens of courage you call upon when armies invade?

P.S. Turns out I’ve got the story behind this painting wrong. This is Romulus’s wife Hersilia trying to stop a battle between her husband and father by putting her babes between them. Yikes! Still brave, no doubt, but I worry one of those babies might get trampled or kicked. Spoiler Alert: The women succeed and peace prevails!

— Barbara Younger

Barbara Younger writers an upbeat, witty blog, Friend for the Ride: Encouraging Words for the Menopause and Midlife Roller Coaster. Healthline placed Friend for the Ride on its list of Best Menopause Blogs of 2013.

Reflections of Erma