Thursday, January 14, 2010

In Memory of a Hero

I’ve done some talking about heroes here & there , about our human need for them & our craving of them. Both drive us to conjure them even if the material is weak, & defenses against idiocy are thin. One doesn’t have to look far past the current White House, or the PGA tour for proof that our conjecture sadly disappoints. Yet we long for heroes. We need heroes.

In December, I attended a worship service celebrating the life of a rare, true hero. He was the father of one of my best friends. He died suddenly & unexpectedly.

We had been suitemates in college (several of us), & had made a pact to stay in each other’s lives; and stay we have. We’ve lived through jobs, weddings, babies, parenting, & times when life brings troubles that blindside us: illness, relationship strain, & now death. These are my life’s friends, & J. is one of them. I am grateful for her Dad because without him, there would have been no J. Without him, she wouldn’t have become the savvy, smart, determined woman of integrity & strength that she is.

We knew him as Rog, because that’s what he wanted to be called. He was fun & energetic, a gifted host, & always wanted to know how he could help us be more comfortable or have more fun. He loved God, his classy & spunky wife, his precious J., & the rest of his family. But you didn’t know Rog without knowing how much he loved his country.

He was “Rog” to us, but others knew him as Colonel Roger S., expertly skilled fighter pilot, recipient of the Silver Star & a host of other distinguished medals & ribbons.

Those who were so privileged to be at his funeral knew we were in the presence of something, someone special. Rog’s love for his country spilled throughout the elements of that service from beginning to end. It flowed from the tips of his sister’s fingers at the piano. It fell into the stories that came from the mouths of his “Colonel” & “Major General” eulogists. It revealed itself in the Military Honors that were presented, the hymns sung, the scripture read, & even the elements of the bulletins distributed for worship.

During this service, as is often the case, we learned things that we didn’t know about the one lost. I learned things that impressed me deeply, that had I known earlier, may have caused me to be more serious, more stoic in his presence. But I had no need to be reserved, because he made sure that none of us was distracted by the accolades of a calling he loved. His life & manner was not ‘all about him.’ It was about displaying his love for others through generosity, his ability to put people at ease, even at the sacrifice of his personal comfort. It’s what made him such a good host, this “love language” of service. It’s what also made him a hero.

See, God created Rog with a heart to show affection through acts of service. He accepted the gift with thanks, & set out applying God’s best for him to the best of his ability. It was, in part at least, what compelled him to devote his life to displaying the affection for his country through a career in military ‘service.’

He was generous with his talent, skill, time, his constancy; all certainly at great sacrifice of his personal comfort. Even in retirement, while running a successful civilian company, Rog was willing, eager to make the sacrifice. J. told me shortly after 9-11, that her dad was “ready to go.” She clarified, “He wants to get back in the cockpit & go to Afghanistan. He would go right now, if they’d let him.” Chronic back pain (from years of tumbling through space in a hot steel cylinder) & aging limbs that defied the will of his spirit notwithstanding, he would have gone. I have no doubt that it’s true, because he was a hero. It’s just what they do.

It’s no wonder that our culture of self-involvement & self-aggrandizement craves heroes so desperately. As rare as they are, our need for them simply cannot be met. However, when you’ve been in one’s presence it’s an experience worth savoring. It’s a gift worth honoring. And especially in this case, it’s an experience worth marking with words. Because see, this hero leaves behind a legacy. It’s a legacy that lives, breathes & walks in the shoes of my friend J. And it’s a legacy that will continue through her children, as they remember & someday re-learn who their Grandfather was to his family, to the people who knew him, & to his country.

I write today to honor one who loved my country more than I will ever know how, & to add to the body of memory that his grandchildren will one day sift, sort & cull in search of who he was, & who they are.

And oh! May they find, with joy, that they come from the stuff of heroes! May they discover that they, too, have gifts from God to be cultivated, honored & used to the best of their ability.

One more question, upon reflection… What is the legacy of my sweet J’s Dad for me? It’s a hope that we citizens of this great nation will learn to sift, sort & cull the body of memory that is our history, in search of who America is, & who we are in her. And, oh! May we joyfully rediscover that we have been gifted as such for the use here & now, and that we, too, come from the stuff of heroes.

God bless my dear America.



Grandma J said...

What a beautiful tribute to your friend J's father. I'm sure it warms her heart. (((hugs)))

Susannah said...

Thank you GrandmaJ. It was a privilege. I hope & pray her heart is warmed.

Crucis said...

A true eulogy and well written. It's startling for contemporaries to leave us. It's a passage of life.

Absent friends!

One Ticked Chick said...

What a lovely post. My father was, and will always be, my hero. A common man, with a great sense of humor, many friends and family who loved him, and the most nonjudgmental person I've ever known. Thank you for reminding me of my hero tonight.

Susannah said...

Crucis~ Thanks for your thoughts. It is startling, isn't it? Many around me have experienced losses lately. It makes me hold even more dear those who I love.

OTC~ I know exactly how you feel. I am very fortunate to still have my Dad (see comment to Crucis above re: holding dear).

Heroes come in all forms, & as my husband & I discussed last night, it's the qualities of integrity, humility, perseverance, willingness to sacrifice for higher things than self that are the stuff of heroes.

Those of us who are privileged to have known even one, have received a treasure for life.

Joe said...

Really nice tribute.

Janie Lynn said...

Lovely post, a wonderful remembrance. Sometimes you wonder if they make them like that anymore.

Susannah said...

Joe~ Thanks. I talked w/ J. after she had a chance to read it. She was very gratified to have her dad's memory solidified in one more way.

JanieLynn~ Thank you. I think "they do make 'em like that" still. I just think they're pressured to not be who they are - by pacifist, feminized, appeasement-minded Leftists who want to hold hands & sing Kum-ba-yah, instead of do the stuff that heroes must. You've seen my Docker's gets it post, haven't yoy? Case-in-point.

Thanks for great comments, all.


Elmers Brother said...

so nice...very nice. Sounds like a wonderful man.

It sounds like he knew the Lord, s I trust he's now with Him.

Elmers Brother said...

btw is that a jack russell in your picture? My daughter has one and we adore her.

Susannah said...

EB~ Thanks. He was quite a patriot, & it is a privilege to have known him. Though I didn't know him like I know J. (who dearly loves her Lord), I too trust that he is in the arms of his Savior.

As for my pooch! Yes, he is a Jack! See my sidebar pics, or my 12-18-09 post - 'Reindeer Watch'

Also just for fun, send this link to your daughter... In the post is a video that all Jack Russell owners should see!

Thanks for coming by, EB. Great to have you here!