I was relentlessly bullied from day one at secondary school. I met you and here was someone who appeared weaker than me and I did what many bullied people do. I passed it on. I bullied you. I remember laughing with glee that the focus of the bullies was not, for a moment, trained on me, but had found you instead. I knew it was terribly wrong, but like a sheep I did it anyway. But you never ever did the same. You never passed the torment down the line, because despite appearing weaker than me, you were stronger than any of us. As I grew up alongside you, I gradually realised that you were better than me. I learned from your forgiveness of me, and I learned how to be forgiven. I learned to accept and celebrate difference. I learned a little humility and gained a little maturity. Thank you, and sorry. Sorry always.
I learned from you how to generate complex maths equations to describe the world around us. I learned from you, painfully, to play chess properly – I suffered one hundred and seventeen defeats at your hands before I finally gained a victory (I suspect that first victory was a gift). But soon after, we were evenly matched and I loved our games. I loved the development of my intellect in jousting with you. There were times when you could be a veteran bore, and times your wit and intellect and humour were soaring. Your mind could be in the gutter one moment and then lift to high and unassailable parapets of virtual genius. You were awkwardly gentle, clumsily warm. You were smarter than any of us. You were “not wise, like” but you had wisdom. You were funny, but so clever some of us didn’t always get the joke.
I remember your struggles with your sexuality. I was so honoured that you shared your struggle with me, and so proud of you when you came out. I was proud by then to call you my friend. And then, one day, school was over and we all went to university. We scattered to different ones. Distance and time inveigled their way between us. You remembered me when you first got married and I was overjoyed to celebrate with you. Then, I moved to the other side of the Earth, and the tyranny of time and distance again crept up. And so it was, until last year, when, after losing my mother, I was overjoyed when you materialised to meet me in a Dublin pub. That was the last time I saw you. It was lovely. Same deep warm muffled voice, same loping walk, same awkward warm hug. Same man. A good man. A great man. A gentle man. A kind man. A passionate man. A goofy, geeky, principled legend of a man. I will miss you, my friend. You were the most truly unique individual I have ever known. The world is richer for you all-too-briefly gracing it, and much much poorer now that you’ve left it. Some knew you as an activist. Some knew you as a father and a family man. I knew you as a kid. I knew you when you were just becoming. I watched you carve your own path, and truly dare to be different. To be yourself, no matter how hard that sometimes was.
Your children will one day know what you were. They’ll be so proud of you, I hope. My sadness is nothing compared to what your family will feel.
Oh Jonathan. Goodbye, old friend. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for forgiving me.Rest in peace. Rest in power.