When It's Time to Hang Up the Cape
“We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend."
Kingsley Buhl was a big guy, tall and broad shouldered. One might consider him imposing, if it weren’t for his ready smile and the confident way with which he made people immediately comfortable. And there was something about him that told you he was a Good Guy. He believed strongly in trying to understand different backgrounds and points of view, but just as adamantly that some things were just plain right and other things just plain wrong, and that a life well lived demanded that we fight the latter and defend that former. That assuredness astounded the pint-size me even more than his towering height, and made me feel safe. It didn’t matter that I could never possibly be as big or as confident. I would always be okay, because he was my Dad.
Those feelings of being protected by my own personal superhero came flooding back when I got the call the other morning that he had passed in his sleep. And the tributes that have been pouring in from his old friends and colleagues, have been a reminder of what a towering man he was, in so many ways. But despite those strong memories of Dad the Invincible—or perhaps more accurately, because of them—it’s his moments of vulnerability that resonate deepest in that part of my soul where he resides. How he cried when he hugged me the night he came home to get his things and move out, or when he said goodbye to baby Autumn after visiting us overseas, or when we laid to rest his own parents. It’s those rare glimpses of my Dad’s vulnerability that seem most precious to me now.
He and I never talked about his fears and his regrets. I’m not so naive as to think he was unburdened by the same self-doubts that all of us deal with, but he never copped to them. And any reference to bad choices he made in his relationships, and the pain and heartbreak they caused those of us he loved him most, were few and vague. And if I have any regret about my relationship with my Dad, it’s that I didn’t try to a little harder to push past his defenses. A frank talk about the demons he wrestled with in his life would not only have given me a little courage and wisdom in battling my own, it would have given me a chance to say straight out to him that I knew all about his flaws and still loved him like hell.
The quote above is from the book “Rising Strong”, by Brene Brown. In it, she also writes: “Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” I’m grateful for the times my Dad had the courage to let his defenses down, and I’ve tried building on that with my own kids. It’s a tough thing to do—who doesn’t want to be a superhero in the eyes of their children? But I don’t think making those two fine adults feel safe is the role I play in their lives anymore. I think maybe the best courage I can show them is the courage to be vulnerable, and I suspect it’s those moments that they will remember clearest when they say goodbye to me.
BRUCE KINGSLEY BUHL The family of Bruce Kingsley Buhl sadly announces his peaceful passing on October 16, 2020. Kingsley was born on April 4, 1943 in Cleveland, OH, the youngest (and by all accounts wildest) of Robert and Elizabeth Buhl’s three sons. After many years as a juvenile delinquent, he inexplicably developed a respect for the law and set about to practice it. He would graduate from Yale Law School in 1971 (although his heart would belong, right up until the end, to his beloved OSU Buckeyes).
As a highly-respected attorney, a partner at Dykema-Gossett in Detroit, Kingsley championed plain language over legalese and consensus over contention. He ended his career as a mediator in Atlanta, GA, dedicated to helping people in conflict find common ground. During several election cycles in the 2000’s, he donated his time to ensuring the voting rights of otherwise disenfranchised citizens. The last several years of Kingsley’s life were dedicated to checking items off his “bucket list.” Having learned to fly a plane in his 30’s, he fulfilled his dream of jumping out of one just days before his 70th birthday. At the age of 76, he horrified his caregivers by making good on his lifelong promise to see Alaska, and defied the predictions of those same caretakers with his safe return. Also, he ardently pursued his goal of letting no single woman at his senior community feel unappreciated.
Kingsley leaves behind many people whom he loved deeply, and who will profoundly miss him. Among them: his brothers Lance and Tim, his sisters-in-law and his nephews and nieces; his ex-wives Carole Przywara and Cheryl Buhl; his sons Kendall and Colby Buhl and Michael Bickford; his daughters-in-law Caroline, Jo and Erin; and the grandchildren he doted on, Autumn, Gareth and Savannah. Finally, he leaves behind a world a little better for the time he spent in it.