On March 4th 2014, my friend Jo killed herself. She wouldn’t have understood how much we’d miss her, because when you’re in that kind of state of mind you don’t get it.
I do miss her, though. If you’re thinking about killing yourself, you probably have people who will miss you too. They won’t even know before you die exactly which things they’ll miss about you. Some will be obvious, of course, but others not so much.
I miss Jo’s propensity to wear purple. Her ability to see the simplest of things – a feather, a leaf, a pebble – as complex universes in their own right. Her obsession with stones and how peaceful they are.
‘Cheers’ing with plastic mugs in our friend’s garden. How she too was captivated by the golden sunlight as dawn edged over the horizon, and both of us stopped speaking for a few minutes just to watch the light playing across the house’s façade.
Freezing my arse off at a rickety picnic bench late into the night, the scent of her roll-ups wafting temptingly past my nostrils.
The look of mild horror on her face when she thought someone might be about to hug her. How she didn’t mind sitting on the ground.
How well she knew herself: how in tune she was with her own psyche. How the inside of her mind seemed to have the same architecture as my own; that wonderful feeling – “someone gets it!”
I always saw her as a peacock feather even though I don’t think I ever saw her with one.
Her artwork: bold, splashy, bright, evocative; alternately calm, peaceful, monochromatic. The way she depicted the changing of the seasons in words and paint and her own moods. The woods and how she loved them.
The lack of judgement. How tired she sometimes seemed when she had to explain something again, but the fact she’d do so anyway because it mattered to her that she felt understood. How she could spiral so far into her own thoughts that following her conversation sometimes felt like spinning down a rabbit hole.
How she’d pick up the bottles she’d brought to the party and take them back home with her at the end of the day.
How untrusting she was, and yet knowledgeable about who she could trust.
The patterns we sketched together, in the air and on the tabletop. The way my bum would go so numb after hours sitting next to her on a fallen log that I wouldn’t even be aware I was still sitting down.
Her insistence that the world shouldn’t be the way it was, even faced with me going “Yeah, but it is, though.”
How she’d cut through the fug of her own depression to reach out to another person in theirs, knowing she was helping just by talking and listening and being.
How she somehow looked a bit like a walking painting even when she wasn’t wearing bright colours. How she always managed to look like herself, even when that wasn’t straightforward or healthy: I never saw her looking false.
The way she was, through and through, a person I related to. A person I admired and loved. And now, four years on, a person I still miss.
I wrote this song for her the day after she was found:
If you’re thinking about dying and you believe the world might be better off without you, please reach out. To a friend, a teacher, a colleague, a doctor, a helpline… whatever’s available. Here is a list of suicide helplines around the world.
You’re not alone.