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Several times I have walked through the crosses at Arlington National Cemetery. There I saw real the names of real men and women. Again I’ve known guys who went to Nam, some who came back alive, others who came back wounded and still other who came back to be placed in a cemetery. This weekend is not just a time for barbecues–though that’s fine. It’s a time for me at least to remember those who served their country and especially those who gave all they could. Freedom, like salvation, is not free. It was purchased at a very high price. Thank God for those who gave it all.
Just a gentle reminder: It’s called Memorial Day… not Barbecue Day.
I am reminded…
Stanton Ritter, my Dad,
is and always will be
I hope you will enjoy this video, that was also part of this Ephemeral Epiphany,
as a tribute to you and all those we honor on Memorial Day
I am reminded… of a very special and deep gratitude I had not drawn a connection to until this very moment. The Grace of God brought one particular man back form Vietnam alive. A HERO to his country, he continues to honor this title throughout his life synonymously and simply as “the man.” The actions of this man, which he would claim as “ordinary,” have made the lives of so many others anything but.
After his return to “civilian” life, he took on the title and role of “DAD” to a little three-year old girl —raising her as his own— when he vowed to become the husband of that little girl’s mother. As she grew into and through her adulthood, “the man” gave that little girl everything he could, in whatever way he knew how.
Eventually, his wife bore him a son of his own. He was humbly satisfied to see his boy grow into a fine upstanding man. He beamed with nostalgia and a sense of fulfillment when son married a beautiful, brilliant young woman that any parent would joyously call daughter-in-law.
Yet, as each of us has some “skeleton in the closet” (or perhaps even an “elephant in the room”) at some point in our life, “the man,” with his skeleton, marked him no less of A HERO. In fact, I say, in the end, it made him more so.
I would further venture to guess that much of the younger human demographic, exists with the unspoken assumption that via travel along the chronological variable (one of many) by which we quantify and measure our life, it is granted that the eventual arrival at some arbitrary marker on this time line will serve to label a pigeon-hole we like to call “our golden years.” This will be the time when we sit back, rest on our laurels and enjoy the fruits harvested from our labor.
Not so for this Hero. As what should have, by (all aforementioned and so-called) rights, marked the beginning of the man’s “golden years;” instead, made demand for a complete reevaluation of his life. Some of which, likely included a reexamination of some of the darkest years of his younger-days.
Ipso facto, he set out to begin The Hero’s Journey once again. If you ask him, he may tell you it was the hardest thing he has ever done… harder maybe even than surviving Vietnam.
Regardless of the causes or the reasons: blame it on Vietnam, blame it not wanting to feel any pain, blame it on the very blood that runs through his veins; it doesn’t matter. The man set out for battle once again. This time however, the Draft was not mandated by some human-governmental-authority. It was a Draft dictated by the only true authority, that of The Supreme Universal Divine Creative Force. This time the risk was not one of ENTERING a war zone, but rather one of ESCAPING… and the only route out was narrowing rapidly. This was the most dangerous war zone in all eternity; this was the war zone that exists only within The Self. It was a covert operation that had perpetuated unchecked for decades, long after Vietnam had nearly been forgotten. It was the Battle of Alcoholism in the War of Addiction. Those who know, will understand this: Paradoxically, the only ESCAPE is through finding one’s way to the road called Surrender. It is by traveling this road that one is lead to refuge and eventually a to place of peace. The finally irony perhaps, is there IS Victory in this war of The Self. Yet is is a Victory that requires constant vigilance and can only be maintained “One Day At A Time.”
In the meantime…
While “the man” was deep in the battle trenches of Recovery…
It just so happened that the man’s son and daughter-in-law were busy bearing and beginning to raise their firstborn child.
Last year the man, The Hero, and his long-suffering wife bravely set out to move nearly 1500 miles from (the comfort zone of) the town the man had called home for nearly his entire empirical life.
Because it is his nature.
Now sober and LIVING in Recovery, it was time for the man to “carry on” and continue to fill his Hero’s role
…only this time he came to become A HERO for a new little girl.
Surely, she is his pride, his joy, his reason.
She is the man’s Grand-Daughter.
So as the cycle completes, it must begin again.
Many people get second a chance in this life,
but not many of them will rise up again to hark the Hero’s call.
A true Hero is compelled to answer this beckoning.
For there is nothing else for the man to do.
It is his nature.
So what happened to the little girl he had called daughter for the last forty years?
That little girl grew up to be a fine woman too. Yes, she had her struggles and demons along the way, and …like most of us… she still has a few. She didn’t come by her accomplishments easy…
She passed through a few illness & hospitalization, addiction & institutionalization, crime & jails, before arriving where she stands today.
Yet through it all, across the thousands of miles and decades of time, her DAD, her HERO was always there for her. He reached out to help her up when she fell down and supported her along every endeavor she made towards success when she was standing.
Not despite, but because of, the lessons learned from her struggles and demons …and the stewardship of “the man” while she was learning those hard lessons… she collected many of critical pieces of the puzzle she would (and still will) need in order to fulfill her own purpose in this life.
Over the last decade she has attended a prestigious university, from which she holds multiple undergraduate and a graduate degree (across the fields of human health and performance) in science and education. At the same time she opened* and continues to operate and grow her successful business. In which she knows she has found the hub of her purpose:
Continually helping others, and especially herself in and by…
Achieving heath & wellness through a balance of
the mental and
Allowing the Soul to Align with the Spirit through letting go.
The ability to let go of judgement of Self both to others and of others,
The ability to let go of comparison of Self both to others and of others,
The ability to let go of always needing know why.
*The Little Girl, all grown-up, was able to open her business (in full vision), because of her Dad’s initial financial investment as well as in his belief in her ability to succeed. Jesus was quoted to have said, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30); hence she was blessed to be able to recruit the help of many others. First and foremost, her Creator, without which she would not have her primariy domestic-relationship and business partner of over eighteen years…
Unfortunately, this particular story is not about him.
Only by grace…
Now, and once again, I must say: “ONLY BY THE GRACE OF THE DIVINE.”
There is not a single doubt in my mind, that the man in this story was carried home from Vietnam by his Guardian Angels.
I am also of the firm belief that even though he had fulfilled his calling in that no-less-important-and-heroic role in Vietnam, he had to be returned.
Why? Because—as surely as he could not have imagined the work he had yet ahead of him in this life—he still had many-a-grand-and-new-heroic purpose to serve..
I hope this man knows
—just as surely today, as he could not have known then—
that Stanton Ritter, my Dad, is and always will be
I hope you will enjoy this video that was also part of this Ephemeral Epiphany,
as a tribute to you and all those we honor on Memorial Day