Last weekend, we laid a dear cousin to rest. Several of the first cousins spoke during the service about our family and shared memories of Cousin Mike. Almost everyone who spoke said the same thing; our cousins are more like brothers and sisters. Our family is extremely close knit.
Since I already planned to write about Philios, the Greek term for brotherly or friendly love, I thought I’d include a tribute to my cuz, who was more like a brother to me. Because humans weren’t designed to do life alone, this type of love fuels our innate need for acceptance.
Philios is a bit more conditional than the other types of love. If we have a friend who doesn’t meet our conditions or needs in the relationship, we can seek a new friend. With family, it’s not so easy to discard them but you do have a choice whether or not to stay close and connected to them.
It is also true that we sometimes have friends for seasons in our lives. When we learn our lessons and mature and change, we sometimes outgrow our friends and family. There are, however, some friends who are lifelong. I count many of my family members among these. You can go weeks, months, or even years without speaking (although you wouldn’t want to) and the next time you talk to them, it’s as if no time has passed at all. You can laugh about old times while you make new memories.
Cousin Mike and I called each other Bill. Don’t ask me why because I don’t remember exactly. Bill had a way of talking between his teeth so you had to listen carefully to hear what he was saying. You were glad you did because his dry wit would leave you cackling out loud. Most of the time it wasn’t what he said but how he said it that was so funny.
A couple of Decembers ago, a bunch of us cousins were sitting around a dining table swappin’ lies. Bill was visiting from Colorado and I swear we laughed harder that night than all previous visits combined. When it was over, I admitted that I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. One of my cousins told me she didn’t almostpee. Our faces hurt from smiling and laughing.
Bill told several childhood stories but I remember one in particular. His pop had a pet goat and his mama didn’t like the creature, especially after it got into her garden and her roses. One day his mama had enough and shot the goat with rat shot. The animal lay there unmoving, with no pulse that she could find and she was worried that her husband would be seriously displeased. When pop got home, he walked over to the goat and told it to get up. That goat got up and followed his pop. He’d been playing opossum.
Bill always reminded me a little of Schwarzenegger. It was probably the jawline and the fact that he was into weightlifting and fitness. He, like the rest of us, battled back and neck problems through the years. He also battled tobacco and alcohol like so many of us. But other than that, he was into healthy living.
Musical talent was a gift he inherited from his mama who was a pianist. Bill’s instrument of choice was the electric guitar. I remember hanging out at the church building where he could turn up the amp and blare some head banging, guitar talking, ear splitting, heavy metal music. He introduced me to artists such as Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, and Metallica.
Bill was almost six years older than me but he always let me tag along like an annoying little sister. We’d hang out in his room, listen to death metal and smoke stogies when I was still young enough for them to stunt my growth. He was cool and I thought hanging with him would make me a little bit cooler too.
I’ll always carry a little bit of your cool with me Bill. Rest in peace cuz. Until we meet again, I’ll miss you.
I also have friends who feel like family. You probably do too. These are people who you allow into your dirty house and they let you in theirs. You don’t have a problem grabbing the toilet brush and attacking the mold in their toilet. Hey, they’d do it for you right?
These are the friends you call when you are happy and when you are sad, when you need to vent or when you need help. They’ll be honest whether you want to hear it or not. Yours is the ear they bend when their life is going to pot and you offer them the perspective they desperately need. They’ll hold your hand and you’ll hold theirs.
You miss them when you are apart and your try to work out visits so you can squeeze in a few minutes with them here and there. For my friends whom I love like family, I can’t wait to see you again.