All I had to do was one thing, the right thing, and this post may not exist. But instead something else is gone. And in it’s place we have this.
Last night my friend Johnny Meyering took his life. Before he did so, he changed his Facebook profile picture to an image of the ocean and a warm beach. A line of footprints traces the line of the surf. I would like to think that he wanted to find peace. And that he cared enough that he wanted people to know that.
Twelve of his friends liked the picture. Two posted comments. One said, “Beautiful!” The other asked if he was alright.
The problem is that he’s no longer there to receive it. The line is now disconnected. And no one will be there ever again to pick up.
Every thing in Johnny’s life up until last night could have possibly been fixed. And for some reason he couldn’t see that. And so he did the one thing that in fact could not be taken back.
This morning I looked at his Facebook page, that strange 21st century totem that is all about memory and memorial.
I wanted to Message him to tell him to please stop, to please not do it.
I wanted to Poke him to let him know, hey, someone is out there and cares.
I want to Post on his Wall and tell him to come up and stay with us for a while. I know some kids who are struggling to stay in school. If you just go and sit with them for a little while and help them a little bit with their writing and math, you will immeasurably change the world. And you alone can do it.
But he’s no longer there to receive any of it.
I look at his Friends. I see faces from Seattle and from Japan and San Diego and Chicago. I know a few, but by no means all. But the person who is friends with every one of those people? The one person who bound all those people together into a circle of friends has made himself gone.
I look at his Likes. The movie Gerry, and the movie Samsara, Jazz, and The New Yorker. The Wire, Raymond Chandler, David Sedaris, Art Spiegelman, Taberna 1931, The Bill Evans Trio, Langston Hughes, Paolo Coelho, Huruki Murukami, The Urban Land Army. And more.
This is the filagree that composes a person. There is no one in the world who liked exactly the same things as Johnny. And there never will be.
When the person becomes gone, the Likes and the Friends lose their life as well. The thing that gave rise to the Likes and the Friends has gone away and in turn they have become a dry and intractable husk.
I remember decades ago a crazy Thanksgiving dinner we held in a small walkup apartment in Golden Hills in San Diego. Anna and I weren’t married yet and a good handful of Meyerings were there and Johnny was too. Anna’s high school English teacher came and left and got a DUI. All the rest of us probably could have been in the same boat. And Johnny was there, he had been studying Japanese. He was looking youthful and handsome – he always, for as long as I knew him, looked youthful and handsome. And his manner was funny and dry and he was as gentle and brilliant a person as I’ve ever known.
And that’s the weird part. Even now, on this Memorial Day morning, I can feel him. Which is to say that he had a feeling, a presence that was unique unto him. No one else in this world ever has, nor ever will, feel like Johnny Meyering. The feeling was so special. And so precious. And such a great gift to the world.
But we never recognize it in ourselves. And we fail to understand that it will actually matter when it’s gone.
It’s so wrong. And now nothing will ever bring him back.
That’s what I would tell him.