The longer we live our lives the more people we will lose. It takes a deep maturing of life to accept losing people who have touched us in some way. Once we have grown in our skin, loss is something we come to accept, if not understand, however complex death is to us.
And while it doesn’t make the process any less heartbreaking, we manage to find our way to honoring a life’s passing. When we find it in ourselves to release the life of a loved-one, the pain of that loss is less intrusive. Losing people we love is aligned with the natural order. It’s quietly complex, and one of the most unavoidable experiences we will live through. This is an example of why Buddha urged against attachment.
This Father’s Day, I am reminded of male losses in my life. It started when I was in my first year of high school. My grandfather, Doc (as he was a doctor), passed away. Then, short of three decades later my father, Kenneth, although he was commonly referred to as Jeep by friends and siblings. A more poignant blow happened just a few months ago. My older brother, Kenneth, which was the most unforeseen.
Yet another loss. Yet another acceptance. Yet another honoring.
My older brother and I were not close. We grew up on opposite ends of the country and under different life situations. Our deepest bond was that we shared the same father. We spent summers together in the park, at the lake. Those memorable summers included eating juicy watermelon and sweet home-made ice cream. And in August we’d drive some 60 miles to Shelbyville for the annual Thompson reunion. We’d ride horses, and receive hugs from family we didn’t know, hearing without fail, You look just like Jeep!
I can say this in light of how different children are raised now: We were grateful children. Innocent. Naïve. We weren’t bored with being. Doing something as simple as trying to catch lightning bugs in our backyard made us giggle, and happy.
During those humid and hot summers in Nashville, life seemed so slow and measured. I was the youngest child at the time, and I followed my older brother and sister like a lost puppy. Sometimes they teased me or would pretend to play hide-and-seek only to run off somewhere and leave me all alone. Still and yet, there was method to their madness: when they returned sometime later they’d bring me my favorite soda in a bottle and bag of chips from a small country store walking distance of my father’s house.
Despite our only seeing each other during summer, we played and talked and laughed as though we were around each other all the time. As if time or distance not once bridged us. Because we were children, we so easily picked up where we’d left off the summer before.
Of course we probably didn’t know it at the time, but our summer vacations at my father’s house would come to an end. Our last summer together was the same summer my youngest sister was born. We were having so much fun, which is probably why the summer felt so fleeting.
This was the time when my father decided enough was enough with me sucking my fingers. He taped two fingers together to keep me from sucking them, and it only took a day for me to stop. That same Nashville summer I shared with both of my siblings for the final time was the same summer my father and brother started calling me Bugsola.
For the life of me, I don’t know exactly why. The sequence of events that led to me being called Bugsola is vague, at best. Yet I recall that it happened on the golf course. This is where my father and brother spent some of their muggy summer days.
I remember this much: begging my father to let me catty. And while he knew I wasn’t ready for such responsibility, my father appeased me nonetheless. The Bugsola thing seems random now, and primarily because I’m not sure why, or even where “Bugsola” came from. Soon enough, my big brother and sister were calling me Bugsola, too.
On rare occasions when I called my brother, I would say, “Hi, Kenneth, it’s me, Bugsola. Kenneth would say, in his known-for-it drawl, “Buuugsooola, how you doin’?”
Throughout most of my adult life, I looked upon Kenneth as my big brother, and my father’s firstborn. The brother I would lose touch with, except rare occasions in which a reaching out seemed overdue. It wasn’t until his passing earlier this year that I came to appreciate his life in a broader context–he was a father, and deeply loved by his children.