My dad has an extreme fear of heights. His intense fear has never stopped him from going to great heights. Despite his fear we climbed mountains, steeples and bell towers all over Europe, the leaning tower of Pisa, and just about every tall building with staircases to a view point that we came across in our travels. His fear gripped him causing him to sometimes crawl the final steps of his journey.
I remember standing on a tiny ledge with a railing that was only as high as our knees to get a better view of the art work in a Cathedral in Italy. My Dad had plastered his body against the wall and was moving inch by inch around the ceiling ledge with us. He was consumed with fear and yet he refused to miss the opportunity. His discomfort was evident to everyone around him but he has always carried on.
My dad often sought out these adventures for us. He loves the view, he loves the exercise and the experience, but his brain screams out every time in protest. I would say that his reaction to heights is as intense as anyone with an extreme phobia. And yet he has never stood at the bottom of the steps or the base of a mountain instead of climbing. He has never allowed the fear that confronts him cause him to back down from any height.
I think it was my dad’s example of repeatedly facing fear and walking right into it on purpose that thought me to face my fears. He never stood on the sidelines and told me how to conquer fear. He has always lived it by example. He has never been ashamed of his fear which taught me to have no shame for mine.
Emblazoned in my memory is an image of my father crawling across a mountain ridge of shale rock on his hands and knees. He looked directly at his hands in front of him his terror leaking out of him in groans. It was a long ridge and he never once turned back, never slowed down, never gave up.
I hope to be that example of facing fear – whether it is on my feet or on my knees.
Fear can bind us up, lock us out and paralyze our actions if we give it the power to do so. If we move forward through our fear – despite our fear – even if it is a tiny toe step at a time we reach our destination. As my dad fought his battles before the little eyes of his daughter he showed me how a hero lives day in and day out — and that is how I recognized another hero when I met my husband Dennis and I was blessed enough to marry him.