I heard a story yesterday. It was about a friend of ours who was on a night out with his mates a few years ago. They were on their way to Boutique nightclub (an establishment many Melburnians will be familiar with), and in a bid to up their chances of getting in (as there were no girls with them) they split into two groups. The first group lined up and was successfully admitted; and as the second group approached the bouncer they were told that they could all come in too – except for Dan. Dan was a little bit overweight and obviously didn’t fit the mould of the type of clientele Boutique wanted to see in its establishment. So he went home, crestfallen.
This story was told at Dan’s funeral yesterday – he committed suicide last Tuesday night.
My friends and I have been talking a lot since we got the news, and in particular since the funeral. It’s a heartbreak many of us haven’t experienced before and we’ve all been surprised by how much it has affected us. We all grew up with Dan and his mates but I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years – if this is the impact on someone on the periphery, I shudder to think what his closest friends and family are going through.
Dan’s friends, family and girlfriend spoke at his funeral. Their stories told of a funny, kooky young man. He didn’t bother much with pleasantries. He valued interesting people, and didn’t suffer fools gladly. He was curious and adventurous, and had seen more of the world than I could fathom.
What I remember most – as clichéd as it is – is his smile. It was a perma-smile, of a variety so open and genuine that it stood out from everyone else’s.
We heard of his search for purpose – for what he wanted to do with his life. He loved music, and was a mad sports fanatic. But what he really wanted was to be a writer. He documented these hopes and dreams in a diary which was quoted in part by his father. He spoke of writing with an almost mystical adoration. I got the sense that it was to be his saviour.
A few days before his death he wrote an article for an online sports publication. It was about the Superbowl, and the spactacle of sport that only the Americans can pull off. He hadn’t told any of his mates about it – I presume he wanted to hone his skills before any of his friends or family read his work. The excitement for him at being published – at seeing his name in a byline – must have been giddying. He must have felt such hope.
So imagine my heartbreak when my friend told me after the funeral that Dan’s article had received comments from readers, trashing him for ‘buying into the hype’ of the Superbowl and shaming him for enjoying it so earnestly. Imagine how exposed, hurt and uncool Dan must have felt.
I am not insinuating that the nightclub story, nor the readers’ comments, are the reasons Dan committed suicide. A decision like that can’t be simplified down into rational moments-in-time like that. But in a time of such sadness, all we can do is think about what we can control: our own actions, and the way we treat others.
In Australia, seven people make the same decision that Dan did, every single day. Three quarters of those people are male. Boys have it so tough.
Be kind to one another. Look people in the eye, ask them how they are, and give them a smile as genuine as Dan’s.
I’m not sure what else to say, so will end it here. Goodbye Dan. I wish you could have seen how many people came to your funeral.