07 March, 2012

The Hole in Our World

Rest in Peace, Captain"Lex" Lefon...

John, himself a leader of men, said it best: “He was the leader you wanted to be led by.”

A civilian myself I cannot claim the personal experience that proves John’s opinion true, but I felt it instinctively, and I saw that truth borne out in how men and women I admired responded to him. Every good word I have seen heaped on his memory these last hours is simple fact. He was that good—as a naval officer, as a patriot, as a writer, as a thinker, and as a man you would be blessed to have in your corner.

I was one of those so blessed. I never quite knew whether to call him mentor or friend, for there are reasonable restraints when a married male and single female separated in age by well over a decade get to know each other. So there was little baring of the souls, though at times we each let down our guard a bit and gave a peek into our respective burdens and regrets. And you’ll never convince me I gave as good as I got on the friendship front, for he was the wiser and more sophisticated Southern Gentleman who seemed to always say and do the right thing while I was the bull in a china shop, not always knowing what I was plowing into, and sometimes in my inquiries too brazen by half.

But there was playfulness and teasing at times, and thought-provoking conversations on topics as weighty as the factors in generational poverty and the moral effects of justified killing. And there were kicks in the pants when I needed them, and gentle restraint in the needed rebukes he directed my way.

I learned so much from him, about courage and perseverance, about leadership and compassion. He was an amazing mix of restrained ego and genuine humility, for I don’t think he ever forgave himself for his mistakes, and I have little doubt that his last thoughts included terrible guilt for what he knew his beloved family would shortly be experiencing.

It was his passion for his family that truly defined him for me. His deep admiration for his wife as displayed on the blog was echoed “in real life.” He adored her without reservation and truly believed he didn’t deserve her. He once said before I met her that he thought she and I would have a lot in common, and I considered that high praise, for someone who would have Lex’s esteem must be pretty special.

Like any passionate father, he shed tears of love, sorrow and fear for his beloved children. He marveled at their gifts and I know his heart broke over and over at their sufferings no matter the source of their pain. One of the few times our conversations were deeply revealing was when he shared his concern for his struggling teenager and I attempted to give him a bit of insight into a typical teenage girl’s mind—one of the few areas of humanity he didn’t seem to instinctively understand.

As for me, I have written before about what he did for me on a personal level, and I do not want to be more revealing on that account, only to say that he was (of course) absolutely right in his evaluation and challenge of me. My deepest regret is that I didn’t tell him HOW right he was. I had been wanting to do so, and had made a mental note to reach out to him in recent weeks. I waited too long…

Already I am seeing that my story is not unique, and that doesn’t surprise me a bit. For all his claims that he could be “cold” or “remote” (his words), he seemed to be a lover of humanity above all. Possessed of the spirit of a warrior with the heart of an Irish poet-storyteller, he strongly rejected the label of Warrior-Philosopher, but I became more and more convinced over the years that he was exactly that.

When someone passes on, it is common to say, “We are diminished by the loss.” Never have I known someone for whom this was more true. And here we must add another well-worn phrase, “We are better for having known him.” I certainly am. My dear boyfriend, knowing the effect Lex had on my life, took to saying that he wanted to shake Lex’s hand to thank him for helping make me who I am. The handshake happened at an English/Irish pub last year, but the opportunity to say why it was so warmly given was never afforded. I can only hope that Lex’s startling powers of perception somehow divined the intent anyway…

Captain Carroll F. “Lex” Lefon, you left the world a far better place than you found it…and with a gaping hole that will never quite be filled.