There is a scene in the luscious 1992 film, The Last of the Mohicans that, when I'm in the mood for a good cry and want to be swept away by the beauty of selfless heroic acts (like any normal person is), I pull it up on youtube and hit replay again and again.
This movie has one of the most epic endings you'll ever see, where a character named Uncas, playing the younger brother in the story, puts his life out there for the taking, to save a young girl, Alice, from being captured by the Huron tribe. Uncas doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of taking this entire band of brothers on as he fights them one by one along the edge of a massive, jagged, slippery waterfall cliff, but he's going to go down trying.
In less than four minutes, this scene has me jumping over the promontory, right after Uncas' tumble, crying, "Uncas! Uncas! Take me with yoooooooouuuuu!"
The thing about a hero is the powerful emotion they bring out in us as we see them override every bit of survival instinct we're born with and do what they have to do, because heroes can't not do anything.
Last night, after spending 20 minutes in a soul feeding cry over my Uncas, I sat in the dark living room, sobbing about pure and perfect love. Not the kind of love that movies try to push on us as real, but THIS kind: the kind that blows your heart out of your chest with doing anything to save someone -- and nothing in it for you.
In between heaving gasps, for some reason, my mind reeled back to when my first baby was three-months-old.
He was a spring baby and we were out for an early evening walk. I would push him in his green stroller, explaining everything in the world to this baby -- the one I had waited for my entire life. We were on a bike trail and up ahead I saw a man walking a big dog, which he did not have on a leash, approaching from the opposite direction. I saw the dog startle suddenly, then head for us in bounding leaps, barking loudly, his eyes fixed on the green stroller. The one with my baby in it. I heard the man shout out his dog's name and he may as well have been screaming in a wind tunnel, his dog didn't hear a damn thing.
If there is anything that makes the hair prickle on my scalp and give me wobbly knees, it's a hound on the loose. I've been like that since a Great Dane knocked me flat on my back when I was seven-years-old. While I don't hate dogs, until proven otherwise, I am skittish around them.
Putting aside the terror of knowing that in less than three seconds there would be a bear of a dog that I was scared out of my gourd about, right at my feet, I jumped to the front of the stroller -- barely getting there before this canine did. With the dog howling furiously, I stepped in between him and the stroller, his nails scratching my legs. He growled deep in his throat, and that scared me more than the barking. The dog tried to get around me and at my stroller, and even though the man was still calling his name and trying to catch up to him, it wasn't fast enough for me. I was wearing clogs that day, and I pulled one off my foot and held it in my shaking hand until that perfect moment when the barking dog's jaws were as open as they could be, and I plunged my shoe into his mouth, in full combat assault.
Crazy, I know. The owner thought so, too. I knew the dog could've bitten some nasty holes into my quaking hand with those long teeth of his but I had to risk it. It's not that I transcended all fear or didn't care about pain -- believe me, I was light-headed from being so scared -- but he wasn't getting at my baby.
I hadn't thought about this day in years, and it made me think of how we -- how all of us out here -- have had moments of cape-wearing epicness where we toss aside our risk of injury to save another.
When my son woke up this morning, I told him this story. He had no idea that I had once been his Uncas, taking on that Huron tribe one by one along the precipice for him. It felt good to tell my tale and to hear myself say it.
So very many times in our lives, we recall our failures, our less than stellar moments, the times we wimp out instead of standing up. But we let the memory of our heroic acts fall away into some abyss, as if they were not the spectacular things that they are.
While I love this scene here from The Last of the Mohicans, today I want to hear your hero stories, because I'm a sucker for bawling my eyes out from the clear beauty of moments where we're larger than life.
Would you gift me with your hero story? Either a paragraph in comments, or write up your hero moment on your blog and come back and leave me the link?
From what I know and have seen of all of you, I'm positive you've got some four-hankie-tales from the prize archives of your beautiful lives.
I would be so honored to learn more about you; let me get swept away by your retelling of that brilliant time you took on that tribe along a cliff.