The Boy Who Was Very Brave


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“Be brave,” he said, and closed his eyes to ward off at least the pain of seeing his skin pierced by sharpness.

“Just a scratch,” the nurse stated in rote-like monotone, forgetting that for this boy nothing at this point was ‘just a scratch,’ especially not with veins well worn from prodding, let alone in a child who must struggle to understand why any of this was necessary.

“Be brave,” he said again, and his voice shook, and a tear slid under his lids and traveled down the small cheek to settle on his ear like a tiny sorrow-diamond.

“I’m sorry,” the nurse pressed her lips together when the third poke failed and another scarred blood vessel rolled under her needle. She’ll have to try another site. How on earth did someone not put a port in this child yet?

“Be brave,” the boy clenched his eyes to slits but more tears fled. “Be brave.”

The nurse looked up, distressed by his determined resignation. She paused and placed her gloved hand on his cheek. “You are,” she said. “Very.”

Eyes still shut, he shuddered and she wasn’t sure if he understood. She pulled a chair to his gurney and smoothed his hair. Someone from the Children’s Home had brought him to the hospital with another flareup, but the orphanage was too short-staffed to have anyone stay with him, especially when the boy wasn’t fussy and reportedly “used to” the hospital.

As if there could be such a thing as a child being “used to” being alone in a hospital.

“You are brave,” she repeated. Her eyes stung and perhaps the emotion in her voice more than her words filtered through his bracing because his eyes opened to meet hers.

“You don’t deserve any of this,” she said. “No one does. What you do deserve is to get better, and for people to really see and understand how brave you are. You are so so brave.”

Another tear rolled toward his ear. She hoped this one wasn’t from fear but from recognizing a connection.

“I’ll be as gentle as I can,” she promised. “I know this must be awful, but I need to get a line in for your medicine. Can you be brave for me just a bit longer?”

He held her eyes before he nodded.

“Good boy. So let’s just get this over with?”

He nodded again and this time did not close his eyes but hung them on her face. He did not look away or make a sound as she flicked and poked and needled.

“Good lad,” she praised, relieved, as she finally placed the clear bandage over the IV.

He took in a long breath.

“Can I get you anything?” she lingered, wanting to do something for this boy, so small and pale and alone.

He nodded.

“Some juice or crackers, maybe? It’ll do you good to get some of these in you,” she chattered. “I bet we have some toys I can borrow from the playroom for you.”

He held her gaze.

“Can I go home with you?” he asked. “I promise to be brave for you. I’ll be brave every day.”



(*Based on a true story.)

For Six Word Saturday



20 thoughts on “The Boy Who Was Very Brave

    • Thanks, Dale. It would now, wouldn’t it? This specific bit is a fictionalized account but it is based on a true story and on true realities, including some encounters I’d had myself during my work with children who faced and lived in dire circumstances. It crushed my heart when one child – not in the hospital like in this story but in a clinical setting – had asked me if I would be their mommy. I am a nice person and I’m sure it comes across to children that I care about them, but no matter how lovely a clinician and person I am, for a child to be so desperate for love that they ask this of someone they really barely know and just because I’d shown some kindness, had shattered my heart. One cannot not be changed by such encounters. … Na’ama


      • I can so imagine this. For an adult to show a parentless child some kindness must give them such a sense of wishing for someone to love them. It must be agonizing to work with these children daily

        Liked by 1 person

      • It can be. Not all the children I work with are so desperate (or in that way), but some have been, and some sometimes still are. It does break one’s heart, but if the option is to not give them even the kindness that one can, then I’d rather have my heart broken and be there for them in the way I can, even if it shatters my soul to know I cannot be all of what they need.
        Some years I’d be devastated that I had to become one more adult who’d left them (e.g. if at the end of a school year I knew I’d likely be needed in a different school the following year). My little sister–a clinical child psychologist–asked me if I’d deprive them of whatever the relationship we were able to build over the year … she reminded me of studies that showed how sometimes the difference between children who ‘made it’ and children who did not manage to cope, was having even ONE caring adult, at some point in their lives — a teacher, a neighbor, a coach, a person who passed through their life and gave them a sense that things could be different and that they were worthy and lovable.
        I’d hold on to that, and hope that as long as could somehow let the children know they mattered — imperfectly though this was and even though I could never really be all that truly needed — it was better than none at all.
        It taught me that every interaction matters, and that every connection was an opportunity. Perhaps not to make it all better, but even making things marginally a tiny bit less awful, is important.
        And … yeah … my heart broke a lot, and softened a lot in the re-breaking. Hugs Na’ama


  1. Oh….break my heart….like the pome from Rumi, break ny heart again, so I can love more fully. ❤️

    Adele Ryan McDowell,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Adele. Yes, it would break one’s heart … and I know you know the places children can be that lead to such desperation. This is based on a true story, as well as on the experiences I’d had with some of the children I’d worked with over the years. One had asked exactly that of me, and it shattered my heart, because no matter how nice a person I may be, no child who is in decent circumstanced would ask their SLP (or their nurse, or their teacher, or their neighbor) to take them home and be their mommy. May no child ever need to, and may those who do, find a home. Love you more, Na’ama


    • Thanks, Jaye and Anita. I can think of little that is more distressing than children who are desperate for connection and safety. There are those that have needs that are evident, and then there are the too many that aren’t seen because their circumstances aren’t known or understood, and it is a heartbreak every time to be faced with their profound despair and tentative hope beyond hope that all too often cannot be fulfilled–or not as they need at the moment. Thank you for the comment, and for reblogging. Na’ama


    • Hi Suzanne, Yes, it is so very very sad. Children being orphaned and children being ill (and the combination) is part of reality, but the circumstances of some just shatter one’s heart. And should. Thank you for reading the comments, too, for the additional background stories they provide, and because … the reactions tell the story, too. Hugs to you, and may all children who need a home, know the feeling of having one and know they are loved and worthy. Na’ama

      Liked by 1 person

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