This was not meant to be, we were supposed to grow old together. I have cried in my dreams thinking about you. Do I feel anger too? Oh yes. Fucking deep and furious anger like a storm in the Atlantic Ocean, as colossal as all the seas and all the skies, deep and dark as space. This is the hardest of all the many emotions I have about your death to deal with, because it shouldn’t be there: I should only feel love towards you. But I understand this is the same for anyone left behind after a suicide. You have hurt us, even if that was the last thing you meant to do. We wake up every morning – every morning! Every morning, of every day for the rest of our lives thinking of you, aching for you, heartbroken for you. Wondering if we could have done more? Feeling the guilt we feel, the despair… then the anger. Why, why? Fucking hell, why? Why did you leave us? Why did you leave us wondering every single morning for the rest of our lives what we could have done more to help? What sort of a friend was I to you? Why did you take yourself from us? You fucker. Cut me off before you do it. Tell me that I am nothing to you. You fucker. And I love you forever every single second for the rest of my life.
My friendship with Tim started in 1990 when we met on a deserted Caribbean beach. I was travelling from London with my girlfriend; Tim from his hometown Chicago. When I broke up with my girlfriend a few days later I found Tim within 30 minutes to take him up on his offer to “hang out in Chicago”. An hour later I was on a flight back with him. I lost a girlfriend but found a soul mate.
He frequently came to London to stay with me. Despite the distance, and that he was gay and I’m straight, through the years I was in contact with Tim as much as with any of my best friends. A successful “business guy”, artist and film-maker, he was a smart, feisty, funny, snarky, passionate guy who poured his heart into his art, travelling and friends. He loved his teenage (adopted) son. He believed in making the world a better place.
Tim was strong, someone I always turned to, so when I received his email just before Christmas it was completely out of the blue – “I might just kill myself”. We had about 100 emails between us then over the next two months. In hindsight they read like a long suicide note, a counseling session, the swan song of a spellbinding friendship.
Those left behind by someone taking their own life will often think they could have done better. I could have done better. It turned out several cold winds had blown in to create a tornado in Tim’s life: business struggles; diabetes diagnosis; and a cheating partner. He lost belief in himself.
On Dec 19, 2011 Tim wrote:
We don’t see each other much but you are so important to me. Sorry to be such a fuck up. I hope you will forgive me.
On Dec 19 David wrote:
And ditto, you are so important to me. Can I do anything to help? With love always.
On Jan 3 2012 Tim wrote:
I’m feeling better every day. Hopefully I will have this behind me soon.
On Jan 3 David wrote:
Day at a time, keep it in the now. The best years of your life are ahead of you.
On Feb 11 Tim wrote:
I don’t know what to do with myself... I’m a mess.
On Feb 11 David wrote:
Find that love of life I know you for. Nothing has changed out here, there’s still much joy and love and fun and adventure to be had.
On Feb 20 Tim wrote:
I still think like I did at 18 like I can get through anything and invent a unique life for myself but now I’m realizing I’m actually at the end of a cool life that I did invent.
On Feb 20 David wrote::
Every action is preceded by a thought, so make your thoughts work for you again.
On Feb 20 Tim wrote:
I have no plans to die... just looking for a path forward.
On Feb 20 David wrote:
Remember the simple joys of life we perhaps all take for granted as adults. Daniel was up early and has just exclaimed: “It’s getting light again Daddy!”
On Feb 21 Tim wrote:
Whatever happens please remember I had a very full life with lots of amazing places, events and people. Of all of them you are the highlight. We’re in Costa Rica next month then the UK.
On Feb 22 David wrote:
We shall meet. When? Skype is on now.
On Feb 23, Tim wrote:
It’s midnight, I need to sleep.
On Feb 23 David wrote:
Have sweet dreams.
Almost poetically, that was the last thing I ever said to Tim. Four days later my great friend killed himself in his garden. I discovered through Facebook. Through contact I had with his family and friends the widespread devastation was agonisingly apparent. I was numb for a week, then the emotions attacked me: the expected grief, but also the unanticipated guilt and anger. A few months later I started to write about it for cathartic reasons, at first I thought it would be just a few lines, but a torrential wave of emotions, memories and thoughts flooded over me and the book was taking shape. Tim had always suggested we write a story together. Now he’d given the story. I wish to fuck I didn’t have the story.
I am in the midst of a profound change. I have been smacked hard in the face with a house brick. I have had my heart ripped out, my soul squashed. I am at times angry, despairing, alone, with you, without you, frustrated and knowing, it is darkness, it is staring at the sun, and as obvious as it seems it is the painfully, blatantly, tragically knowing of the finality of death. I am hopeless for feeling all these, I cannot help myself: I am the straight man who loves a gay man.
It is still. The walls seem to glow orange and shimmer in closer. There’s nothing wrong with my world. There’s something vastly different about my world.
I could call you. There’d be no answer. I could summon the courage to fly to see you, but you wouldn’t be there. It’s hard to take. Do you know what you’ve fucking done? Jesus Tim, why did you do it? I miss you so much you fucking incredibly smart wanker.
In the past 45 years suicide rates have increased 60 per cent worldwide, with a million taking their life every year. A million, that’s an infinite amount of pain, for anyone leading up to the moment of their last breath, and for all those left behind afterwards. And yet while there can never be anything positive about suicide, as with any death it’s had the effect of brutally shaking me to remember that life is merely precarious and precious. (I also discovered that two days before Tim died that another best mate’s sister was murdered.) So I started to see the world in some way as more astounding. And yet…
Always inside of me, I am carrying this ache of sadness, like a hunger that can never be filled, that you’ve left me with forever. Sometimes it feels as if I’m doing rapid butterfly strokes down into the endless depths of the ocean, and I can get no more fresh air into my lungs. Even on our Daniel’s third birthday this month I woke up thinking about you, thinking how sad that you won’t see our boys grow up, in 20 years watch them head out to see and take on and help heal the world. Just like we did at that age. And party too.
I bump my head on the ocean’s bottom, so change strokes and swim back up freestyle, all the way to the surface and catch my breath back. I gaze at the horizon. I need to forgive you. I do of course.
So should we be morose without you? As you would have said: Hell no! Shouldn’t we celebrate your life, in fact not just your life, but life itself, be life itself – for I am, we all are, life itself. As you would have said: why yes I am, yes you are too! Is life miserable, timid and boring? Hell no! It is excitement and intrigue, fun and friends and family, it is delight and happiness, it is the joy of children, it is older people with interesting tales, it is all of us, one and all. Life spins a mysterious web, one that leads back to those who shaped stones and that leads ahead to those who might see our Facebook profiles when they’re looking in museums, for yes, that is where they will be, where our lives today will be on show. So we have to give gratitude to life and party for life, be kind for life, be generous for life.
So I refuse not to live and be happy, despite losing you. As your nephew put it: “When man who carries the flag falls... one must step up in his place.” So here I am, carrying your flag, along with all your friends and family and all people, everyone.
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