I heard the news today, Oh Boy…. lyrics from the Beatles “A Day in the The Life” sung hauntingly by John Lennon have been on repeat in my mind for many days now.
There are moments in time when you are stopped in your tracks and find yourself questioning life, the universe and everything – which is what that song means to me. I had one of those moments occur last week.
A friend of mine, not a close friend, but someone I liked and I knew fairly well – but not as well I as wish I had, made a momentous decision. He was someone whose company I enjoyed and a person I respected. And just over a week ago he decided that this world was no longer the place for him.
Why? I wish I knew… Everyone I have spoken to who knew him has asked the same question – and there are no answers.
I could say without embellishment that he was one of the smartest people I have ever met. Add to that his lust for life, enthusiasm, gregarious personality, caring and friendly disposition – he was someone who was genuinely interested in everyone and everything. A man who enjoyed life and, from the eulogies and stories recounted over the past week, made everyone else’s life better for being a part of it.
Standing in the foyer of the funeral house where his friends, family and colleagues came together to say farewell, I looked at his beaming smile from the presentation screen and asked myself (and him) again “Why?”
It was only a few months ago I was on a training run along my usual track when a cyclist rode past me at speed, only to slam on the brakes and scream out my name. Scared the hell out of me! It also snapped me out of meditative running state and when I turned around there he was, that same beaming smile I saw at the funeral house lighting up his face.
We quickly worked out we were living close by now and frequented the same trails, as he was a health and fitness enthusiast. He was, as always, excitedly talking about all the things happening in his life whilst taking particular joy in hearing about my own adventures that he kept abreast of via Facebook. His wife (who he adored), their dog and their regular hiking adventures were obviously his passion.
As is the normal practice when you see an old friend who you haven’t been in touch with for a while, I said we had to arrange a time to hit the trails together and that we would now keep in touch, considering we were living close by. Sadly, that opportunity is one that I will never be able to realise and will always regret.
His passing has caused me to reflect again on the fragility of life and what is important.
I am as guilty as anyone at taking things for granted. I try not to, but I’m not perfect. I wish I spent more time living in the moment and less thinking about what could have been, or what could be. Or just taking time to embrace every moment as something special, not just a path to the next job or activity.
Having seen the devastation that his passing has had on all those close to him, I wondered if he fully appreciated the impact of his decision and the pain that it would cause to those he would never want to hurt. Surely not…. I have no doubt that in his mind he was doing what he truly believed was best for everyone. On this occasion he was so terribly wrong.
The value of life and how special it is was reinforced to me as I looked around the room at the faces of sorrow surrounding his devastated and inconsolable wife (who is also a friend), each trying to process the unimaginable.
Life is fragile – here today, then gone in the blink of an eye.
I wish I had made contact months ago after we had crossed paths and gone on that run.
I wish that he had reached out to someone and got help.
I wish that someone had spotted signs that no one else could see and prevented the tragedy that occurred.
I wish that he had known how much his friends, family and colleagues valued him and how much pain his actions would cause.
I’m sad that the world will no longer see that beaming smile and so very sad for those who were much closer to him than I for their loss.
The only thing I can take from this tragedy is the reinforcement that we all need to be grateful for life and live true to our values. We should all take time out from the trappings of a material world that seems dominated by work matters, politics and possessions and devote more to the things that really matter – looking out for those we love and our own well being.
Following the funeral I went home and tried to work – not altogether that successfully to be honest. As I worked I set Pandora to play classical guitar music having just learned that he was also an accomplished classical guitarist and that this genre of music was another of his passions. I think I’ll listen to it more often from now on.
Noted author Haruki Murakami once said:
“People die all the time. Life is a lot more fragile than we think. So you should treat others in a way that leaves no regrets. Fairly, and if possible, sincerely. It’s too easy not to make the effort, then weep and wring your hands after the person dies.”
My request to you is a simple one. Always remember that your family and friends love you and would miss you terribly if you were gone. If the days get dark and your world feels hopeless reach out to someone, anyone (you can even contact me via this blog) and get help. You deserve it, and so do those that care about you.
(not so) Happy running….
Note: I have not mentioned the names of my friend and his family out of respect.