Quel Courage! Grace Jean and Les Sabines


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  the 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?

The Truth about Les Sabines: 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!

7 responses »

  1. How brave of you to share your story. Sorry to hear about your loss. I’ve taken to talking to myself. I can say something over and over.. seems to help fight the demons. Maybe I sound a bit demented, oh well.

  2. What fond memories!! And I so loved our guide. I always wished I was more courageous but I do think I have more now that I am mid life living! But as with other qualities….courage is relative. I think we do face things head on when we are called to. Thanks, Barbara for this insightful post and for the good memory!

  3. Great post, Barbara. I think you are very brave, too. I seem to be around a lot of courageous women these days. Writing takes a lot of courage, as does believing you have something to say. I try to claim both every day and recognize it when I see it.

  4. It seems as we get older, things do get scarier and we need to summon up a lot more courage. I just tell myself that there is nothing I have to deal with that God and I together can’t handle.

  5. Barb, I’m coming in late to this conversation, but I agree that dealing with a tragedy of that proportion took great courage on your part. And I’d like to add that Grace Jean herself has been the picture of courage during the last few years. It’s amazing the bravery I’ve seen in so many ladies that I know.

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