There Was A Loud Bang, Then A Bad Smell

3.30 am and I felt apprehensive pulling up at the unstaffed train station. No trains run now and I risked arousing suspicion if anyone in the neighbourhood spotted me.

It hadn’t snowed for hours but I could still make fresh prints in the snow as I climbed the footbridge. When I reached the middle of the bridge, I stopped and looked over the side. The railway tracks below were lit by the nearby street lights. As soon as the platform ended so did the light, and the tracks vanished into the black.

I looked over the other side. As I looked towards town I noticed snow disturbed by footprints where there shouldn’t be any. Between the tracks, at the sides and under the bridge. That’s where Johnny killed himself.

I looked down on the spot where a life ended. I couldn’t imagine Johnny’s last thoughts. Not wanting to leave, I walked along both platforms, listening to the night sounds. Which side did he jump from? How fast was the train?

The Phone Call

Earlier, about six o’clock, my Mum called. Mum was never subtle breaking bad news.

“Alan.”

“Yes, Mum.”

“Johnny’s dead.”

I was shocked he actually went ahead and did it. Eight years of disappointment had caught up with him.

In 2005 my sister and Johnny moved into a new home. It had everything they’d hoped for. A few days later, flood water also moved in and they moved out. The house got flood damaged and new furniture destroyed.

After a period in temporary housing, Johnny got everything fixed, and they moved back. Soon afterwards came another flood. They endured years of rented accommodation and legal wrangles with the builder.

Cracks in the marriage and in Johnny’s mood, began to appear.

Although both were at fault, I aligned myself with my sister. I rarely met Johnny again, much to my regret.


The Invisible Killer

My Dad had reported Johnny’s growing paranoia. He claimed people were spying on him, following him on the way home from work. Sometimes he would prefer to stay hidden in the bedroom.

At the time we looked at Johnny’s behaviour as attention seeking. For example, he would try to choke himself with an iPhone charger. Hospitalisation followed.

My wife had seen him Johnny at the day hospital and found him bright and on the mend. In hindsight he had decided to bring life to an end.

The Inquest

A year after his death another dreaded day arrived. I accompanied my sister to the inquest.

We gathered at the courthouse, avoiding contact with Johnny’s family and girlfriend. God knows what went through their minds. They looked bitter.

This was my first time at an inquest. The courtroom was modern and formal. We sat behind Johnny’s family, my sister hoping she wouldn’t have to give evidence.

The coroner, police and an eyewitness each gave evidence.

The atmosphere remained tense.

Johnny was only 40 and “his arteries had slight furring as expected of a man his age,” reported the coroner. Did we need to know that?

Then the eyewitness.

I can’t remember his name but I recognised his face from high school. He described Johnny looking fidgety, waiting at the end of the platform. It looked odd because trains didn’t stop that far along.

Johnny wandered onto the main area of the platform as the train approached. The express train came speeding along, not for stopping.

With the train approaching, the witness said Johnny lowered himself onto the track. He stood between the rails facing the oncoming train and braced himself.

The witness said the words I’ll never forget.

“There was a loud bang, then a bad smell.”

It took the train about half a mile to stop.


The Price

It cost a policewoman her job. She saw the aftermath and it was too much. (The authorities identified Johnny by dental records). She resigned afterwards.

Each year in the UK over 6000 lives are lost because people convince themselves life isn’t worth living.

The World Health Organisation states up to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year. Many more attempt it and fail.

Some wonder why Johnny didn’t consider his children. He did, only he concluded they would be better without him.

A young son longing for a male role model.

The daughter with questions.

A girlfriend guilty, wondering if she failed to make a difference.

An estranged wife blaming herself.

And me? An absent friend.

Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary thoughts.

If you know someone threatened by their thoughts, never doubt them. Reach out, pray for them and love them. You might not make a difference, but it’s worth trying.

Forget Present Moment Awareness

Mindfulness and present moment awareness are all the rage.

For some mental health sufferers, forget it. The present moment is the worst place for them.

Go out of your way.

Show people the future.


Thanks for reading. I’d be over the moon if you give a little 💚. It will help a few others find me 🙂. Take care.