3.30 am, and I felt apprehensive pulling up at the unstaffed train station.
No trains run so late, and I risked arousing suspicion if anyone in the neighbourhood spotted me.
It hadn’t snowed for hours, but I could still make fresh prints in the snow as I climbed the footbridge steps. When I reached the middle of the bridge, I stopped and looked over the side.
The railway tracks below were lit by nearby street lights. As soon as the platform ended so did the street light, and the rail tracks vanished into the blackness.
I looked over the other side. As I looked towards town, I noticed snow disturbed by footprints where there shouldn’t be any. The snow had been disturbed by persons unknown, between the tracks, at the sides and under the bridge.
I thought that must be where Johnny killed himself.
I looked down on the area where life ended. I couldn’t imagine Johnny’s last thoughts. Not wanting to leave, I walked along both platforms, listening to the night sounds. From which side did he jump? How fast was the train?
The Phone Call
Earlier, about six o’clock, my Mum called. Mum was never subtle at breaking bad news.
I was stunned that he went ahead and did it. Eight years of disappointment had caught up and suffocated his love of life.
In 2005 my sister and Johnny moved into a new home. The house had everything they’d wanted. A few days later, flood water also arrived, and they moved out. Floodwater damaged the house and the new furniture was destroyed.
After a period of temporary housing, Johnny got everything fixed, and the family moved back. Soon afterwards came another flood. They endured years of rented accommodation and legal disputes with the builder.
Cracks in the marriage and in Johnny’s mood began to appear.
Although both were at fault, I aligned myself with my sister. I rarely met Johnny again. I will always regret not understanding or helping Johnny in his time of need.
The Invisible Killer
My Dad had reported Johnny’s growing paranoia. Johnny claimed people were spying on him, following him on the way home from work. Sometimes he would prefer to stay hidden in his bedroom.
At the time, we looked at Johnny’s behaviour as attention-seeking. For example, he would try to choke himself with an iPhone charger.
My wife had seen Johnny at the day hospital and found him bright and on the mend. In hindsight, he had decided to bring life to an end, and what my wife had encountered was Johnny in his state of acceptance.
A year after his death, another dreaded day arrived. I accompanied my sister to the inquest.
We gathered at the courthouse, avoiding contact with Johnny’s mother and girlfriend. God knows what went through their minds. They looked bitter.
The courtroom was modern and formal. We sat behind Johnny’s family, my sister hoping she wouldn’t have to give evidence. The coroner, police and an eyewitness each gave evidence, and the atmosphere remained tense.
Johnny was only 40 and “his arteries had slight furring as expected of a man his age,” reported the coroner. Did we need to know that?
Then the eyewitness.
I can’t remember his name, but I recognised his face from high school. He described Johnny looking fidgety, waiting at the end of the platform. Johnny’s behaviour looked odd because trains didn’t stop that far down the platform.
Johnny wandered onto the central area of the platform as the train approached. The express train came speeding along, not for stopping.
With the train approaching, the witness said Johnny lowered himself onto the track. He stood between the rails facing the oncoming train and braced himself.
The witness said the words I’ll never forget.
“There was a loud BANG, then a bad smell.”
It took the train about half a mile to stop.
The incident cost a policewoman her job. She saw the aftermath, and it was too much, deciding to resign shortly after. The authorities identified Johnny by dental records.
Each year in the UK, over 6500 lives are lost because people convince themselves life isn’t worth living.
The World Health Organisation states up to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year.
Many more people try to kill themselves and fail.
Some wonder why Johnny didn’t consider his children. But I think he did. Only he concluded they would be better without him.
What did Johnny leave behind?
- A young son, longing for his Dad, and a male role model.
- The daughter with questions.
- A girlfriend guilty, wondering if she failed to make a difference.
- An estranged wife, blaming herself.
And me? An absent friend.
Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary thoughts.
If you know someone threatened by their thoughts, never doubt them. I appeal to you to reach out, pray for them and love them. You might not make a difference, but you must try.
Forget Present Moment Awareness
Mindfulness and present moment awareness are all the rage.
For some mental health sufferers, meditation is not the answer.
The present moment is the worst place for them, so go out of your way.
Show people their future.