Living the Sweet Life: A Day Well Spent

By Alisa Murray
Nationally recognized
portrait artist and award-
winning columnist.

My dear friends, promise me that during this lovely new year, you will spend time with some “old folks” and little children, for it is with their company that you will gain the most knowledge concerning living a sweet and fulfilled life. Perhaps I know this having been raised by “old folks,” and perhaps I might have gained this insight having now photographed children for over 20 years.

Alisa Murray with Ernesto and Donna Galvan.

The children will ask you in no uncertain terms how the universe works amongst other things and expect you to just know. The “old folks” will tell you in no uncertain terms how the universe works amongst other things and expect you to listen. Both are wise beyond their years in terms of expectations, gratitude and of course, showing love. The first group has not gotten mixed up in worry, and the latter has learned from living that there’s simply no time for any of that. What’s more, and this is really important for you to note, all of them are close to their “soul.”  When we first arrive, we are full of light, energy, hope and goodness, and as we are departing, we are also as full of light, energy, hope and goodness as we could ever possibly be.

That is why when I was given the opportunity to go home for Thanksgiving, I took my time and spent it wisely with “old folks.” I traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina and spent the day with two of my favorite grandparents in my client base. They have four grandchildren, and granddaddy is a wealth of information.

Ernesto Galvan.

Ernesto Galvan entered into the Army in August of 1950. At 18 he was trained in “everything” because back then the services were not yet specialized. According to him, he was “OSS,” which eventually became the branch of Central Intelligence Agency and Special Forces. He was trained in under water demolitions, engineering, air-borne, jungles, combat engineering, intelligence, air boats and basically every way to survive and get any mission accomplished. He served from 1950 to 1971 and witnessed Korea and Vietnam. He carries the following awards and medals: Good Conduct, Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Badge, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Metal, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Two Star Master Parachutist Badge and Army Commendation Medal honoring 21 years of service. In the spring of 1966, he was featured on the Newsweek Weekly cover, and according to grandma, “all the girls thought he was so handsome!” She first laid eyes on him at age 18, and they were married when she turned 24. Today they have been inseparable for 45 years.

I first laid eyes on granddaddy when they visited me in my studio here in Houston with their grandchildren, and we instantly had a connection. I can spot a sweet soul when I get close to it, and he was brimming with goodness and love. Brian, James and I asked him to tell us stories about the war, and he said, “Those people want us to talk about things; they say talking will help us.” I smiled and nodded and let him roll with us. He told us of a night he was a corporal squad leader in Korea. He had been there for eight months, and he and his men were told to go into the bunker so his unit could sleep. He was wearing a cross medallion around his neck that his mother had sent him, and when he woke up, he noticed his shirt was undone, and his medallion was gone. As he went to each of his men, he found every last one had their throats slashed, and he was the sole survivor. “That was my worst.  I think I was saved because they thought I was a priest.”

There are moments in my life where I “just know” I am at the right place at the right time. As I watched my young son, James Edward, intently listening to Ernesto, I felt a sense of satisfaction from having made sure he spent that afternoon with a war hero, a loving father and a devoted husband. With Ernesto’s help, we have given something to my son that only could be learned from having taken the time to spend with him. James Edward is very interested in a life of service. Both of his grandfathers have passed and both served in the Air Force.  He took the time to watch as President Bush was honored and carefully described to me the meaning behind each detail on the uniforms of the men chosen to carry him home.

Our “old folks” need to be heard, and they need to talk. Give to them the opportunity, and our youth are ready to listen. I want to graciously thank my granddaddy for sharing a war story, for feeling safe to express what horrific things he witnessed while protecting our freedom, and most of all, I want to encourage each of you to seek out the “old folks,” ask them questions and let them roll! You’ll learn things you never could imagine, and time is indeed well spent doing just that.

Take Care of YOU!