David Campbell opens up about a very personal loss
It's true as you get older it's harder to make friends. Not just work colleagues or other school parents you may see all the time. Real mates. The ones who know you. They know your secrets, which buttons to push, how to make you laugh (mainly at yourself) and how to get you back into seeing the world as a glass a little over half full again.
I lost my best friend just over a year ago now. He died by suicide. It was an earth-shattering moment for his wife, son and family. As for his circle of friends, we were blindsided. Numbed. Broken.
This bright light, a man who taught me how to be a better mate, whose laugh was more contagious than the common cold, was gone.
In the months that passed I found his spirit did not fade from me. It came into sharper focus. A lot of that however, had to do with the eternal mystery of: Could I have done anything? Said anything? Hung out more? What I wouldn't give for one more hang.
Other friends, especially male friends, reached out. Good mates who are like family. Old high school buddies, who have seen the bad acne and mullet that were such a part of my every day as a teen. People from my industry who knew me starting out with nothing called or texted. We hugged. We looked each other in the eye and held our gazes.
But I was still feeling a distinct loneliness. You see, us guys tend to get to a certain age and we don't talk about things. Or if we do, we tell a few people, spreading the news in a way that means no one single person has all the power. Or we focus more on our families, or our work.
Yet, if we are lucky, one mate will hold all the gems of your life and keep them for you. Safe. If you need him. Just call. What happens if you lose that person?
Did I do enough? Did I say enough? What if I had another chance?
Six months ago a buddy from New York texted me. Now, we were close back in the '90s. We would haunt coffee shops or go for runs and dream about our futures. Laugh at Adam Sandler movies (the good ones) and just be there for each other.
I lost touch when I moved back here and I regretted it. I was too immature and had not had enough therapy to know how to deal with things. More importantly, I hadn't yet been taught to be a good mate.
I texted back and realised that he was going through something. He was about to lose his dream job. With a wife and two kids, he was somehow losing his identity. His reason for getting out of bed. The black dog had started to walk towards him.
So, we got on a video messenger app. One where we could leave long messages uninterrupted, with no judgement. He talked and I listened. Where I could offer up a gem, I did. Then, I kept on listening. I told him I was sorry I'd missed out on so much, but that I was here now. We picked up where we had left off... laughing, but with less hair.
Two (nearly) middle-aged men, on an app designed for kids, had found a lifeline. Literally. We opened vaults and shared everything. I got my old best friend back. I now talk to his kids and he talks to mine, and he is going great once again. My life is so much richer because he is back in it.
I won't lose another friend. Life is too bloody short. So, pick up the phone. Text a mate. Start a conversation.
David co-hosts Today Extra, 9am Monday to Friday, on the Nine Network.
Lifeline: 13 11 14