Like everyone I am the product of my personal experiences, there have been a lot of influences in my life-some positive, some negative.
In my previous blog I wrote about not choosing to be silent about the things we believe, and that has led me to think about some of the people who have influenced my life.
One of these was a grandfatherly old man named Bela. He was Hungarian and grew up during the time of the Soviet invasion and oppression. As a very young man he fought in the streets against better armed and disciplined troops. Suffered numerous wounds, was imprisoned, and routinely beaten.
Through it all he took a stand for what he believed in, and ultimately one could say he “outlasted” his adversaries.
With Bela you had no doubt he was a man-you knew where he stood and where you stood-what you saw was exactly what you got, and it was refreshing for it’s honesty and lack of guile. He was what many would refer to as a simple man-he had simple beliefs, a thing was either right or wrong and there was no middle ground-that too was refreshing.
He treated women and children as though they were a gift, something special, delighted in their company, and woe to the man who would abuse one them.
While I am not familiar with Hungarian customs I often thought he embraced many of the nations traditions without knowing them or attempting to. He was a warrior in every sense of the word and could have given lessons to many among us who claim to be.
A lie was a foul and abhorrent thing to him, as were self advancement at the cost of others, betrayal of your own, or accepting any transgression upon what he considered to be the sovereign right of himself or any people.
Ultimately the SunDance is about sacrifice for one’s people-that may not always be the case now when many consider it a resume builder or a book title, but unknown to him Bela’s life could truly be said to be his Sundance in the context he lived it.
He passed away a few years ago after a courageous battle against insurmountable odds and I recall a conversation with him at one point where he described a visit he had from a son-in-law.
Seems this son-in-law was one of those new age crystal wavers and in his misguided attempts to assist(?) Bela told him not to fear death and just “go to the light”.
I had to laugh when Bela told him where he could put that light. He asked me if I thought he was afraid of dying and I replied I didn’t think he feared anything.
He went on to explain to me that he wasn’t afraid but he just didn’t run from a fight, and he considered his illness a fight-one he had no illusions of winning and no fear of losing. That any illness suffered by anyone was an unnatural oppression, an injustice not to meekly submit to.
Well, Bela has gone to this light now, he did so with the honor and dignity of who he was and left a legacy befitting a man, a warrior.
I don’t employ this term warrior much for a variety of reasons-among them that in the many undeserved applications now it has become devalued-it isn’t blood that makes a warrior-and liars, con artists, thieves, alcohol and substance abusers, wife and child beaters, and rapists don’t comprise that list-though many who fall into any of those categories would argue the point.
It is a sad commentary in a way that one who was not of the nations was more of a warrior in the finest of the nations traditions than the many who make the claim-one who would never have thought to describe himself in such a manner.
I periodically stop by the place Bela rests to pay respect-a few years ago I placed a feather upon his grave and I find it fitting that it remains to this day.
Bela was an influence in my life, much the same as Annie Mae has been, and I see character similarities between the two. Both understood the difference between right and wrong, and both stood their ground.
In their legacies they outlasted their opponents, and continue to influence others. Neither silent nor accepting in their lifetime and willing to go where the fight was, intent on enduring, I think they both achieved that-Bela with the oppressors in his land, and Annie with the oppressors in ours, who ultimately murdered her, and to this day refer to themselves as warriors.