A fond farewell
Earlier this year I sat in a packed church to say farewell to a childhood friend. He almost made it to 30.
Some of you reading this will know who I'm talking about, for the rest of you, we will refer to him simply as Jonno.
It was a stinking hot January day in Sydney. My somewhat sombre journey West on the freeway offering the most intense period of radiant heat in my memory. I've spent time in Asia but this was brutal. Forty-four degrees centigrade, the sun beating down from above and my engine sizzling me from below as it maintained a healthy cruising speed. After about an hour of that madness, I arrived at my parent's house for lunch.
I was back in my hometown of Springwood, in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia. Where Jono and I grew up as next-door neighbours and childhood pals. As little kids we had spent most afternoons together, building cubbies, riding bikes, eating shapes biscuits, playing Sega and, as we got a bit older creeping on the girls in the 'intimates' section of Target catalogues.
We went to different high schools and as we got older went our merry ways socially and geographically. I'd say in the last decade we'd only run into each other a few times. When we were at the pub, around Newtown in Sydney's West or in Springwood at Christmas time. It was always a pleasant 'how have you been' catch up. That was always enough to remember our collective past and check in.
In many ways Jonno and I were similar. Both white, middle-class kids raised by loving, stable families in a stock-standard suburb of Sydney. We shared circumstance and values, and we even look reasonably similar. His passing hit me with the rude force of a jet engine. It felt like a physical knock to the head when I found out.
I was sitting in bed and noticed a memorial post on Facebook. I thought it was a really off colour prank at first and then validated it by checking his personal profile. He was gone. I burst into tears and felt dizzy. I called across our house for my wife, that was all I could think to do. What the actual fuck!?I went to work (in an office I was freelancing in) that day. I lasted until around 11am and sent myself home. I just couldn't focus. The next few days got better but the shock, the actual condition of 'shock' was kind of intense. I've not felt that before. Like jet lag with the added emotional impact.
On that hot sunny day, I walked into the church. His family church. The words of his friends were beautiful, infused with humour and love. They didn't mention his bank balance, car, position on the corporate ladder or celebrity friends... They focused on his kindness and consistent optimism. The shared travels, social situations and humour he had with them. His friends loved him, his family loved him, he did well at his job, travelled and knew how to charm a lady or three. He had been such a positive influence and trusted advisor to so many. A bloody good egg.
In a little under an hour the service had concluded. The bulk of the services attendees went off to salute to his life at the pub, where he liked to have a beer, a short walk up the street.
HIS ELDER BROTHER AND I CLINKED OUR BEERS AND TOOK A SIP, A SILENT TRIBUTE TO A FALLEN SOLDIER. AFTER A MOMENT HE GENTLY SUMMED UP THE SCENE... "THIS IS HOW HE WOULD HAVE HAD IT”.
The experience of farewelling Jonno made an interesting thought pop into my mind later that evening. One I thought I should pay attention to and reflect on:
WHAT WOULD MY FRIENDS SAY ABOUT ME AT MY FUNERAL ?
It may sound a bit off to have a personal epiphany at a departed friends funeral, but I did. I thought about sharing the above reflection and I decided I would. I believe it is important to remember that we have to take time to acknowledge our short, one-shot go at human life.
I imagined my own funeral, what would people say about me? who would be there? Was my personality, attitude and contribution to the world around me a positive one?
Self-reflection is something that most of us don't make time for these days. It gets written-off as egotistical, irrelevant or selfindulgent. But how else to we look for faults?
The rather dark though of my own funeral came into my conscience that day in a very strong way. During a quiet moment on the couch in my childhood home. I'd taken a hit very close to home and the experiences forced me to stop and think about how I really see myself and how others see me. It is good for you to understand yourself. It's important and healthy to self-reflect. So many young people, particularly young men don't feel comfortable doing this. That's when they bottle shit up, driven by social and cultural pressures to 'man-up' or 'stop being a little sook'.
Self-reflection shouldn't start at a funeral, that's a heavy place to start. But for me my mind was there and it was yelling at me about it that day.
Thinking about your funeral and inescapable doom is fucking horrendous. But perhaps thinking about how people would remember you at work if you resigned? In a shop you've just browsed? Or a party you've just left is the same. Then you go inside... Am I happy with th impressions I am making on people and the situations I am in? If you aren't sure about the answer, it is OK to seek advice.
Asking yourself about yourself is important. Usually, we don't step off the treadmill of life to reflect. We just keep walking assuming things are normal and we have no need to feel special or unique. That usually means we don't feel we need or deserve to feel better... To seek help.
As I discovered there can be a positive outcome to the passing of a friend. Awareness. I guess something in me wanted to offer this article and my thoughts to Jonno as a final high-5 to my buddy over the fence next door. To show him that through his struggle someone (I'm sure I'm not alone) has become more motivated to help others and themselves be more aware of mental health and mindfulness. It is important think of yourself as important.
THIS POST IS DEDICATED IN GRATEFUL MEMORY OF AN OLD FRIEND! BMX JUMPS, CHEDDAR CHEESE SHAPES BICCIES AND SONIC THE HEDGEHOG SESSIONS IN THE SKY OLD BUDDY! REST WELL.
I will briefly mention the black dog in the room. He's a little bastard and likes to nip at the heels of many. In Australian culture it is conventional for young men to act tough, as though the dog isn't there, to muffle our emotions instead. Ours is a society in which that little mongrel thrives. Sadly, Jonno couldn't get away from that mean old hound. To the surprise of those closest to him, he chose to stop running two weeks ago. Rest well dude.
If you are experiencing a bit of a rough patch, feeling low on energy or having trouble there is nothing weird about you. Depression is common and can get away from you very quickly, just like any physical illness. If you are depressed it is often hard to talk to people around you, having trouble with this is again not unique, weird or special... It is common and you are far more normal than you think.
There is plenty of help available for free. Go and get it, you deserve to feel great.
- Your GP can help for free
- If you need to talk to someone now call LIFELINE - 13 11 14
- There's heaps of great info regarding depression and health on the following websites:
UPDATE: 18/8/17 - This year I ride for Jonno...
Every year for the past few years I've participated in a special event that raises awareness and funds for Men's health. This year I will be riding for Jonno.
The event The distinguished Gentleman's ride is a global motorcycle fund-raising event to raise awareness of prostate cancer and male suicide prevention.
I urge you to check out the amazing photo's and footage and become or sponsor a rider.
To donate and help me raise $500 for men's mental health please CLICK HERE
DON'T FORGET TO SHOW US SOME SUPPORT ON OUR SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS - THANKS IN ADVANCE!