I am thinking of you Bubba.
Just like I have for just about every day for the past 6.5 years.
Yesterday morning, September 20, 2016, near the end of my stupid cancer scare, I thought of you Bubba.
I thought of losing my family. I thought about how, if my blood work came back badly, it would be exactly 15 years and one week to the day that I lost my mom to cancer.
I thought of you losing your own family, and how cruel it is, and how unspeakable it is for a child to lose a parent.
I can speak from experience that it is a horror, though one bestowed upon few of us. Cancer, terrorists, any evil that takes a parent from his children — they all leave destruction in their wake. I’m sorry that your kids have to go through it. And it means I am connected to your children, though they don’t know it.
At the gym mid day, showering, I thought of when I first spent the night at your house, for a wrestling tournament. I didn’t know what to do with the wash cloth. I remember examining it, thinking about it, and ultimately ignoring it.
But I knew it was important, because it was always there, with the towels your mom gave me to bathe, each time I spent the night. I bet your family giggled at the foreign kid’s ignorance and I bet you did too, but I bet you also made it clear to your family that you had my back, with that same toothy smile.
You were the most loyal person in the world.
As I thought about that, I remembered that those first wrestling tournaments were around the same time I lost my mom. I thought about how confused I was. How I didn’t want my kids to feel that same confusion. How it defeats you, lives inside you. It never leaves. Maybe it stays silent for a while. But then it starts screaming and God bless your soul when it does.
I thought of being 12 again, hiding this open secret that no one would talk about. But Bubba, only you, out of everyone, out of all my friends, made me feel ok. No one talked to me about it. But your silent and loyal and persistent closeness was the big warm hug that got me through the chaos. You always had my back.
Then I thought about how you can’t help your kids deal with what they are going through and what they invariably will go through. That it all falls on amazing Nicki.
Late in the day, I read an Instagram post from Nicki; she posted a picture from one of your friends still fighting overseas, of a note on an unexploded ordinance — it stated “In memory of Bubba Bunting, not a day goes by brother.” Not a day goes by, brother.
Last night, I dreamt of you. I saw your broad shoulders and the top of your big head as you leaned forward to stand up. That’s all I remember. It was just a moment, but for that moment I felt your presence, relaxed, strong, Bubba.
You know, I wore the rubber bracelet that we got at your funeral until it fell off my wrist, almost 6 years to the day you came home in a coffin from Afghanistan, with a U.S. flag honorably draped over your resting place.
At first, I was gonna wear the bracelet one year, then two, then eventually I said five. Five years came and went and during that time I finished law school, got married, had two boys of my own, just like you. But still, I couldn’t take it off.
On my wrist, it meant I would think of you every single day. I didn’t do it for any reason other than it just made me happy.
Now that it’s gone, I may go a day or two without thinking about you Bubba. But not much more.
I miss you Bubs. You left a tear in my heart that time has no way of healing. And I don’t want it to, either.
I just wanted you to know that.
With so much love,