Ronny’s Thumbs

A reader named Sam posted a comment on “What bereaved parents want you know (but may not say)”.  I found his story beautiful and wanted to share it. I asked his permission, which he gave. You can read his response to my request below his story. 

I believe you to be neither brave nor strong – simply and wonderfully courageous… The feelings, expressions, and insights found among these pages are exactly right. We all thank you for the piece of yourself you have chosen to give “We lucky ones..” who find it.

In my early 30s (1991), I lost a brother to suicide. An entire family (six remaining members) were brought to their collective knees – simultaneously. I would add this insight to the challenge of facing such despair within the family, and hope it too is found helpful.

No one should assume one family member is stronger than another. No previous held role matters. Gender doesn’t matter, Age doesn’t matter. As eldest son, with sisters both older and younger in the family, they naturally turned to me as an anchorage during this particularly nasty storm. We’d lost a brother, and I suppose they were clinging to the dingy that remained: Me.   

Day after day, one after another, they would call me. Weep… You who have experienced this know the kind… A soulful weep from the deepest place within. My 3 sisters, unknowingly chose a 3 day rotation to call me… Monday: elder sister, Tuesday: middle sister, Wednesday: baby sister. Apply, rinse, repeat… it went on for week upon week. Each phone call left me exhausted with their grief. Questions of “Why” most often deteriorated into sobs, which in my heart translated into a soul request each night, from each sister, that their strong Navy brother – fix this nightmare that has befallen us. Assauging their grief, left no room for my own… It had to wait to be addressed when their grief mellowed to manageable…   

I can offer only this relief for those who suffer a recent tragedy – today now nearly 24 years later. Time alone heals… While we may quickly forget what we had for dinner last night. May forget about Supreme Court rulings or Battle Flag controversies – somewhat more quickly… The loss of a family member never completely goes away, but it does change. This is especially true when the one lost, for some reason or another held the rest of the family in awe of their noticable sparkle. But, those future healing moments spent talking of that missing spark, creates a gentle breeze that blows away just a little more of that pain of loss and replaces it simply – with the finest memories of a shorter life shared.

My brother had funny thumbs.. Not freaky or anything, just different. A difference he was proud of – for the humor we others found in them. It was not uncommon to be sitting across from him at Thanksgiving dinner, distracted by the joy of sights and smells of the meal, made more perfect with all of us present… Suddenly one of my sisters would bust out laughing, and draw the attention of all the rest of us. There he’d be, leaning over with a quiet intimacy, a secret just for ‘the chosen sister to see’. Yet, as he also knowingly planned, we others would see too: simply showing her his thumbs… His thumbs were magic talismans… They were our joy then, and the memories of them, are our joy now. 

We each of us miss Ronny’s thumbs… especially at Thanksgiving… But, if you are lucky (like me) across the coming years, your lost loved one will sneak into your dreams sometimes. On those days you want to sleep in.. On those days you may wake up laughing (or crying because your loss is still there) but your reaction to the dream will almost always be the same. You’ll wake and smile, wait for a decent hour, and call a sister to tell her what happened this time.   

For Our Family

Please feel free to republish this story for the benefit of your readers as you see fit. It is of note though that it was written in response to having read your own methods of dealing with grief, certainly not meant to overlook it. We who write often come to KNOW that writing of our grief is in some ways cathartic as I am sure you have found. People’s responses to what light we find at the end of Our specific tunnel can become not only part of the writer’s healing but may help set the reader’s foot on the path to wellness as well. Thank you for your touching words that helped me find mine.

Please note that I am accutely aware that I wrote from a sibling’s perspective. Though my father is gone now, I can only recall a time or two when he spoke of the loss. My mother, here now so many years later speaks wistfully of our Ron, as do now we all. He smiles down funny thumbs – both up… 


Thank you, Sam, for sharing your Ronny with us all. 

5 thoughts on “Ronny’s Thumbs

  1. “We’d lost a brother, and I suppose they were clinging to the dingy that remained: Me…Assauging their grief, left no room for my own… It had to wait to be addressed when their grief mellowed to manageable…”

    So well expressed.


  2. It is a beautiful story, Kathleen, and it is comforting to be reminded that time, like a gentle breeze, blows away more and more of the pain, replacing it with glad memories. May those in the throws of weeping read these words and take heart.

    Liked by 1 person

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