My best friend, Jonathan, took his own life a week ago. I hate that his whole story now seems to lead up to his end. If he’d been saved somehow, most people would never know and his life would have gone on, apparently with a completely different arc. I think of that moment in the movie Match Point when the ball could fall on either side. There are so many different, better ways this should have gone.
Some people have talent, some have energy, and some have empathy. You only get to have one or two of those things. Except for him – he had all three. He was a brilliant doctor, a hobby farmer who kept bees and made wine, a volunteer firefighter, the star of an amateur production of Frankenstein. He was a family man who loved his wife and loved his kids and taught me about being a father, starting as he did a few years ahead of me. Once he came straight from a fourteen-hour overnight shift at the hospital to help me move house. People didn’t seem to infuriate him like they do me. If someone was obnoxious or mean or wrong, he still seemed to think the best of him. He could see their foibles and their faults but he still accepted them.
Books are my life yet his reading left me far behind. He read voraciously, he read difficult books even while doing a difficult job. We would buy a book on each other’s birthdays, and he prodded me and widened me. Richard Powers’ Overstory gave me a sense of wonder and a love of trees much deeper than I’d ever had. Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life filled me with a sadness that’s never quite gone away. I would like to think of Overstory as the book to remember him by, not A Little Life.
At the moment, I’m stuck in the moment his wife told me the news. It keeps playing in my head over and over, shocking me afresh. ‘How are you going?’ I asked cheerily when she rang me as I was bathing the kids. ‘Not good,’ she said and then she told me. When I wake up I hear it again.
I don’t think Jono feared death, maybe because it often hurt so much to live. And that made him bold. He gave so much to so many people. I wish we’d known how to save him.