I just walked out onto our back deck and looked out over the valley of New Lambton Heights, NSW, Australia, looking onto Elermore Vale. There is a large rainstorm headed south from Queensland, but the calm before the storm, the hot winter sunshine, is amazing. I blew a great, fat smoke ring into the sun, watched it float away, and thought of Timmy.
Timmy was from Cobar, a remote country town in the desert of North Western NSW, about 3 hours drive from Warren, which is on the Central Western Slopes and Plains of NSW, where I grew up. He was one of my best mates at High School. He once, shortly after we were all busted smoking in year 12, blew a fat, luscious smoke ring into the face of the boarding master who busted us, and then calmly and casually stubbed his cigarette out. Walking away without expression from the $50 fine he had just received.
He moved back to Cobar after year 12, got a job at the Toyota Dealership as a mechanic, and played rugby union for Cobar. He was the hardest, toughest, most unassuming flanker that played for Cobar first grade since his father, Kevin, played for them 30 years earlier.
He fell in love with a woman who had a child, had two more with her, and suffered form serious and deeply rooted depression. He was always depressed, in a sense, when I look back upon our schooling together. He just didn’t smile all that often. Maybe he missed the open spaces and freedom of his 50,000 acres of arid farmland in Cobar? Maybe his Mum, Gwen, and his Dad, Kevin? Maybe his little sisters?
I’ll never know.
When he moved home, he won best forward, best and fairest, best bloke at the rugby club, just cause of who he was. Unassuming, quiet, but as hard as fucking nails.
Despite all of the apparent success, his awards at Toyota, his return to the bosom of his family, his wife and children, one night ten years ago, he hung himself from the garage rafters.
He had asked his rugby mate to stay for “Just one more VB.” But as his mate couldn’t drink as much as Timmy could, nor did he want to, he said no, and stumbled home.
Timmy’s Dad found him hanging in the garage the next morning.
The horror is unimaginable. But Kevin and Gwen soldier on today, through droughts and loods, good years and bad, carrying the weight of survivors guilt with them everywhere they go. Like a lead chain hung from their necks. His sisters too. And his ex. And his children, one would assume.
When I was in the depths of depression, when I saw ropes hanging from trees, sharp knives in the kitchen drawer, when I was cooking and thought, “one hard slash and it could all be over.” I thought of Timmy. I thought of the grief, the pain, the anguish that his loved ones, me included, carried with them.
I know why he was compelled to make that choice. I know why he did it. I even wanted to do it myself. But I didn’t. Thanks to Timmy. He taught me that there are other options. There is the choice of life. There is the choice of communication. There is the choice of hospitalization. There is the choice of recovery.
Thank you Timmy. I have never had anything but respect and love for you my dear, departed friend. If not for your suicide, I may have left my loved ones, my wife, my children, my parents, my siblings, my friends, and joined you earlier than intended.
Thanks mate. You are all right in my book. Always were. Always will be.