He loved toys and boys games. Hand guns. Bikes. Scuba diving. Rock climbing. In the end his love of extreme toys and behaviour appears to have been his undoing and a small plane in which he was travelling broke up and crashed on Friday evening.
His friendship was unconditional. He gave with no expectation in return. He weighed in with enthusiasm, for the sheer pleasure of a new experience and the ability to help. Whether that was unloading ten tonnes of ceramics from Mexico (he came down with heat stroke in the oven of a 40 foot steel container) or negotiating how best to secure a software license from a US company. To hear from a mutual friend today how it was that he turned up in a NBC suit to the hospital bed of an ill colleague not only made me laugh at the absurdity of that gesture but it delighted me as well. For it rang true to the sort of character he was – free and ready to lift someone’s spirits, even at his own expense.
JD was an atypical Army sergeant – part of the Sydney latte set, dating a girl from the Australian Ballet, wearing cufflinks, expensive cotton shirts, and able to give sound advice on red wines – and I loved that about him too. In many ways he was his own man and own character. And there was always something about the little boy in him that never grew up. An effervescence and naiveté that in our heart of hearts we all envied. Well, part of me envied that part of him at times.
The news is so new that it is only online. Nothing in the printed press yet. But already I resent the detachment of the press reporting so hollowly the facts when I know the person behind them. Yet that is how it is. How often we read that someone has died in a car accident then move on to the next piece of news without considering the person behind the event. We don’t connect with it – unless we are forced to.
The afternoon is a little hollow for the news. Hollow too for the introspection that has me wonder if I could not have been a better friend, confidant or mate. Best to see how that feeling might fuel my relationships with those still alive. In the meantime I think of JD and remember a roguish glint in the eye of a mid 30s boy and understand he was one of those whose passing in a violent way is somehow appropriate. He would have been chewed up by a Great White, or crushed to death by an anaconda, fallen off K2 or frozen to death in a submarine lost under Arctic ice if he had not been destroyed in a plane crash.
Later in the afternoon The Age Melbourne newspaper shows the first image of the crash site. I am stirred by the two plastic sheets slightly out of focus in the background – as if the most important, or least offensive thing is the wreckage – under one of which will be JD. Vital, energetic, adventurous. Now a lump of charred meat lying in a paddock and, for the rest of the world at least, with no name. I want to tell every reader that I know one of those mounds, that he has a name, an identity, a personality, character. That he is my friend. My friend so blithely lost.