This is me, climbing over a gate, all the way back in 2012. About five minutes after this photo was taken, I walked into an electric fence. I guess it said ‘NO FOOTPATH’ for good reason.
It was taken by my friend Jon. He had invited me for a walk in the woods while I was recovering from a brain injury I sustained in a car accident that spring. Ever the conspiracy theorist, he advised me to ”keep a look out’, because dangers lurked in these woods – frequented by a mysterious cult who claimed the land as their own.
In September 2016, on an extended break in the salt-panned Camargue region of the south of France, I learnt that Jon had gone for a swim one afternoon in a lake in Poland, where he was staying with his girlfriend and friends. He was advised not to swim; it was too dangerous. The currents were strong. Alas, he said he would be back in an hour or so. He never returned. He was a fit man and a strong swimmer, but the lake proved too much for him and he drowned.
For days, perhaps weeks, I could not believe it. He was well known for being a joker with an abundance of peculiar beliefs about the world. Many things went through my head. Was it a hoax? Did he fake his own death in pursuit of a new life? Was it suicide, even? To me, he always appeared a lost soul. He never could seem to find a place to put his root and he held his cards tight to his chest. He was evasive about his past and rarely mentioned his family.
Our friendship disintegrated in early 2014. He had travelled to Australia and was seldom in touch. I was hurt by this and, on his return to the UK, the hurt I felt was further compounded by his expectation that my then boyfriend and I would house him because, as he put it, he didn’t want to waste money on rent. His attitude had become selfish, and I later learnt that he had attempted to negotiate a deal with my landlord to take the room I was renting at the time.
By the time he died, we had not spoken in almost three years, though I had often checked in on his movements and travel updates on Facebook. I always intended to reconnect with him and, had I known he would die aged just 41, I would have made the effort sooner.
Jon lived like there was no tomorrow. He was fearless and venturesome, and perhaps that is what I admired in him. But with his fearlessness came recklessness, and death did, indeed, catch up with him in the end.
I wish I had caught up with him in the end.
One doesn’t recognize the really important moments in one’s life until it’s too late.
– Agatha Christie
Whether you live to 100 or 41, our lives are mere seconds in the grand scale of time. It is short. For those with whom you have shared important moments, reach out to them. Take a moment to tell them what they mean to you, what your shared experiences have brought to your life. Don’t wait until the eulogy; do it now, because you never know when it’s too late.