The Warriors Journey Home: Grief and Joy, Loss and Love In the 4th Quarter of Life


In 1994, my book, The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet, was published. In it I quoted meditation master Chögyam Trungpa,

“Warriorship here does not refer to making war on others. Aggression is the source of our problems, not the solution. Here the word ‘warrior’ is taken from the Tibetan pawo which literally means ‘one who is brave.’ Warriorship in this context is the tradition of human bravery, or the tradition of fearlessness. Warriorship is not being afraid of who you are.”

At the time I wrote the book, I was very much concerned about the state of men and wellbeing of the planet we all share. I am even more concerned today. But I will be 80 later this year and the grief, joy, loss, and love I felt then about the state of the world, has a more personal dimension these days.

In previous articles I talked about my wife’s fall, her hip replacement surgery, subsequent stroke, and the caretaking that has challenged us in this “4th quarter of our lives.”

I believe it was Bette Davis who said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies!” As we face the end of our lives and must deal with disability, discomfort, and disease, it requires us to tap into our true warrior spirit.

            My wife, Carlin, and I met in 1980 at Aikido Tamalpais in Mill Valley, California. We were both students of Aikido and our instructors, Wendy Palmer, George Leonard, and Richard Strozzi-Heckler taught us a lot of what it meant to be a warrior in the tradition of Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba.

In the course of his long and distinguished career, Richard trained Green Berets and wrote a book, In Search of the Warrior Spirit. He said,

“the traditional warrior virtues of courage, loyalty, selflessness, service, and guardianship were probably first enacted by hunter warriors as they stalked and killed game, protected their clans from predatory animals or looting bands, and even participated in ritual ‘war.’”

In her book, Who Do We Choose to Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity, Margaret Wheatley wrote,

The Warrior’s arise when the people need protection. The human spirit needs protection. May the Warrior’s arise.”

Clearly we need this kind of warrior spirit to deal with our own aging and caretaking for those we love. We also need this kind of warriorship to deal effectively with the challenging facing men and women in the world today.

Frederick Marx: Warrior for the Human Spirit

            Frederick Marx is a true warrior for the human spirit. He is the founder of Warrior Films which, says Frederick, “inspires needed social change by telling compelling stories highlighting transformational solutions.” He is also an Academy and Emmy nominated filmmaker and has worked for 45 years in the film and television business.

            I first met Frederick following the release of his 1994 documentary, “Hoop Dreams,” one of the most acclaimed and successful documentaries of all time. The film goes into the  heart of the male spirit for success. He tells the story of Arthur Agee, William Gates, and their families over a four-and-a-half-year period, covering the boys’ entire high school careers as they pursue the elusive dream of professional basketball success.

            Frederick is also an author. In his book, Rites to a Good Life: Everyday Rituals of Healing and Transformation, he says,

“I think the greatest crime of the last two centuries has been the countless millions of children who have been brought into the world but never taught to discover their unique purpose in this life.”

He goes on to say,

“There are a minimum of seven key passages in the average person’s normal human lifespan:

  1. Birth
  2. Baby to childhood
  3. Childhood to puberty
  4. Adolescence to young adulthood
  5. Young adulthood to middle age (sometimes defined by parenting)
  6. Middle age to Elderhood
  7. Eldership to death.

He talks personally about the 7th stage of life in his powerful book, At Death Do Us Part: A Grieving Widower Heals After Losing his Wife to Breast Cancer. In the book he recounts his grief after his wife died, as well as his lifelong emotional struggles. In reviewing the book, Kirkus Reviews highlights the power of the book to describe this ultimate transition in life including  Frederick’s personal story:

“When the author was 9 years old, his father suddenly died. It was a traumatic encounter with mortality that would haunt Marx for the rest of his life. He was plagued by thoughts of suicide; his teenage years were marked by rebellion, and at the age of 16, he left home to live communally with friends. He married in 2003, when he was 47 years old, and was forced to finally make his peace with the concept of death when his wife died in 2016 after a protracted struggle with cancer.”

Frederick is also a founding member the Moonshot for Mankind and Humanity and featured in the forthcoming book, Long Live Men! The Moonshot Mission to Heal Men, Close the Lifespan Gap, and Offer Hope to Humanity.  Here are a few things he shares in the book:  

“Somehow a good portion of my adult life has been devoted to advocating for the initiation and mentorship of young people, especially boys. That journey began at age nine when my father died and my uncle told me I was now the man of the house.

“On the way to my dad’s funeral, I walked to the car with my dad’s younger brother—the man who at ten was led by my fifteen-year-old father out of the rioting city of Frankfurt following Kristallnacht to the care of Dutch refugee officials, who spent those next twelve months, as the war began, living with a Dutch farm family, only to be fetched by their half-dead father who somehow managed to escape Buchenwald to claim his boys and spirit them across the Atlantic on one of the last ocean liners to make the voyage to NYC in January, 1940. My uncle put his hand on my bony shoulder and said, ‘Well Freddy, you’re the man of the house now.’

“Nowadays we laugh at the inappropriateness of such statements. Maybe in the back of his mind he was thinking about what he would have done if my father hadn’t been there to save his life. But his words didn’t seem inappropriate to me. I wanted to be that man, to care for my mother, older sister, and younger brother. I wanted to live up to that responsibility.

“I thought my father’s death and my uncle’s recognition somehow combined to anoint me a man. It would be many years before I understood the conceit of that. I was no more a man than my sister or brother or mother. But that moment planted a seed in me, one that would continue germinating throughout my lifetime. How to become that man of integrity and honor I yearned to be? How to hold responsibility for the well-being of those I love?

“That’s why I joined this moonshot mission. Over the years I’ve found good answers to those questions, but I’m still reaching for pathways to bring some of this accumulated wisdom to society’s main stage. That’s why I made the TV miniseries Boys to Men? along with other films that examine the issue of men’s maturation, and that’s why I wrote the book Rites to a Good Life with a chapter titled ‘The Mature Masculine.’

“Like Jed and the other members of this accomplished team, I aim to provide some of the tools to enable people everywhere to reach for their own human transformation and to lend a hand in support of men everywhere.

“My simple, albeit ambitious, prayer is that male teens worldwide get initiated and mentored into adulthood. To help get us there, I envision thousands of men’s organizations worldwide partnering with us to sign and promote a simple Five-Point Men’s Wellness Vow:

  • I will remain healthy in mind and body.
  • I will nourish and grow my emotional awareness.
  • I will become familiar with my internal darkness and never harm another man, woman, or child.
  • I will ask for help and strive to live cooperatively, not competitively, with men.
  • I will become the best man I can be, living with honor and pride in my masculinity.

“Our goal? One hundred million men signatories!”

 You can reach Frederick at If you would like to read more articles about healing men, you are invited to subscribe to our weekly, free, newsletter.

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