Jonathen. A different kind of journey.

Jonathen aged 20.

Beginning at the end seems as good a place to start as any.  Jonathan died  in 2002.  He was 38 years old.

Why did he die?  There are many and complex reasons why he died.  Some of these reasons seem insignificant when taken alone.  Collectively, the reasons provide a framework and explanation for his death.

Jonathan was a very sick baby, with an undiagnosed allergy to cow’s milk.  He screamed all day, from 6am to around 8pm.  He screamed when he was hungry.  He was fed, then screamed with discomfort and pain, and vomited.  He was then hungry again, and so the cycle continued.  His maternal grandmother was a great supporter of strict routines including the 4 hourly feed cycle for babies.  She changed her mind.  She would put him in his pram, and walk him around and around the house, for hours.  The motion soothed him, and gave him some peace.

Baby 1

As a small child, he could be irritating beyond belief.  He talked non stop.  He could not stay still for any length of time.  He was unable to concentrate.  These days we would be alerted to the possibility of ADD/ADHD, and would have strategies in place to deal with the issues a sufferer confronts.  When he was a child, he was chastised and punished.

School was a challenge.  The challenge became greater as he grew older.  In the early years, his sweet nature and enthusiasm for life generally helped him through. By the time he entered high school, his school life became an acute misery to him.  He excelled at sport.  He was fine with technical subjects.  The death knell for his education occurred when his school, in its wisdom, placed him in 2 foreign language classes, and no technical classes.

Jonathen – Savo, Vanuatu

He spent all his spare time building remote controlled planes, flying them, crashing them and rebuilding them.  His planes had to be perfect, and because of his technical skills, they were.

Jonathen in a real plane – New Plymouth, New Zealand.

Jonathan had always been entrepreneurial.  As a 14 year old, he lived in a high rise apartment block.  He knocked on every door and offered to put their garbage bins out every week for 50cents.  He always had a paper run, and he collected lost golf balls to sell at a discount back to the golf clubs.

This entrepreneurial spirit held him in good stead when he found himself unable to cope with the school.  He loved cars.  He wrote to every panel beater in the area seeking an apprenticeship.  He was successful, and was very happy in the panelbeating and spraypainting environment.

Jonathan then made a fatal error in judgment.  He became friendly with one of the other apprentices, who was a heroin user.  At 17 years old, Jonathan began his journey to hell.

He was no stranger to illegal substances, as he had cultivated marijuana for his own use, hidden among other plants in the garden.  He was furious one day to discover that all of the leaves on the lower part of the plant were gone.  His sister’s cat had eaten all the leaves she could reach, which probably explained why Bianca the cat had become a laid back friendly cat rather than the cat with attitude she normally was.

Heroin was not a recreational drug for Jonathan.  It insidiously, bit by bit, took over his life.   Apprentice panel beaters do not earn enough to support an addiction to an illegal substance.  Non wealthy addicts start selling whatever they own.  The proceeds do not last very long.  What then?

Jonathan was always very proud of the fact that he did not “steal” from his family at this stage.   He did however borrow from the family and spin great stories about why he needed the money.  Needless to say, repayment never occurred.  That source of income dried up relatively quickly, so the next fatal step was taken.  He commenced his life of crime.  Credit card and ATM fraud – all the time telling himself that the victim was a huge corporation, so it really wasn’t harming anyone.

Inevitably he was arrested and charged with various offences.   He avoided jail, by agreeing to enter rehabilitation.  Family, at the start of their journey, naively thought that Jonathan would emerge from rehab cured of his addiction.

Since, as later discovered, he had arranged for “friends” to stash heroin in the grounds of the rehab centre, that was not to be.

Inevitably the spiral into hell gained momentum.  Jail was inevitable.  The family maintained their support, and visited him in jail weekly.  He emerged from jail a changed young man. Actually, not for the better.  Rehabilitation.  A joke.  Suffice it to say, he had learned to be a far better criminal, and had many more contacts.

The family welcomed him home.  He managed to find work.  However, the contacts formed during his time in jail were what he valued.  They understood.  He did not feel like a second class citizen in their company.  He was still addicted, as heroin was freely available in jail – for what price, we will never know.

Jonathan loved children, and they loved him.  He met a young women who had a little boy.  He adored that little boy, and the little boy loved him.  When he was in jail, the young woman died.  After he was released he tried to see the child.  Her family would not allow it.  He was devastated.

Years passed.  As Jonathan grew older, there were less opportunities for employment.  He continued to commit offences, and was returned to jail on several occasions.  His family continued to support him.  When he was in his early 30’s, he made a huge effort to beat his heroin addiction.  He was successful.

So, happy ever after.  No.  He became addicted to methadone.  Methadone, the government’s answer to to heroin addiction.  Jonathan made a huge effort, and  ultimately managed to leave the methadone programme.

He is very proud.  The family are very proud.   Are we up to happy ever after yet?  No.  He turned to a legal drug – alcohol.  Well at least he could obtain his drug of choice at a reasonable price and no longer needed to commit crimes to acquire that drug.

Jonathan then met the woman who was to become the mother of his daughter.  That relationship was difficult, due to his addiction to alcohol.  He was not a happy drunk.  He was a very unpleasant drunk.

His sister and brother in law set him up in a car wash business.  They provided the vehicle and equipment.  Enthusiasm was high.  His car wash business started well.  Reliability was not his strong suit though.  It was never his fault, you understand.

The customer was unreasonable to complain about him being 2 hours late.  He was acting in the customer’s best interest by waiting for the rain to stop.  Why waste your money having your car washed at 2pm when it is raining.  It is sunny 2 hours later, and the car would stay clean for longer.  Did he contact the customer to give them the choice.  No.  The customer should have understood.

Inevitably business dwindled to a mere trickle.  One day, his partner was driving the vehicle, rolled it and wrote it off, which killed the already dying car wash business.

He was so happy when his daughter was born.  He adored her.  She became the total focus of his life.  What Nikki bikkie needed or wanted was his top priority, well, when he was sober.  He was totally focussed on this little girl, and the fact that he had the most wonderful daughter in the world.

His relationship with his daughter’s mother became more and more dysfunctional.  There were times when they were both happy to share the miracle of their daughter. These times became less and less.

Jonathan consulted a new doctor about his depression, addiction and ADD.  This doctor gave him hope.  The hope was misplaced.  The doctor said there was a physical cause, rather than mental health issues.  The doctor prescribed drugs which had Jonathan crawling up the walls.

As hope faded, his relationship with the mother of his daughter deteriorated and he was unable to see his daughter on a daily basis.

Early in November 1992, Jonathan told he family he was going “up the coast” to stay with friends.  He bought his cat over to stay.  He bought what few possessions he had, to store. He seemed calm, he had not been drinking and was not affected by illegal drugs.

The next weekend, he had his daughter for a day.  We went out for a picnic.  He was happy, calm and pleasant.  It was a lovely day.  One of his nephews remarked that “Uncle John was really nice and fun to be with today”.

He took his daughter home, and was going to stay with friends, he said.

He died during the next week.  He hung himself in a park close by the flat where his daughter and mother lived.  His daughter was 2 years old.

Jonathan left letters for family.  His letter to his daughter read, in part:

“I love you so much.  You are a good little girl and I will miss you.  I know you won’t remember, but I wanted to see you grow up so much.  I just had no hope of that, so I gave up on myself….We had lots of fun.  There are lots of photos at my sister’s place when you are old enough to see.  Love Daddy”.

In his letter to his daughter’s mother and his daughter,  he said “I love you so much, but I had to go my sweethearts.  I was a good dad Nicky.  I hope mum tells you that.”  … He then asked her mother to tell her he was a good dad.

He left a note with his letters, providing contact details. At the foot of that note he wrote “Its a nice night, about 4am, so goodby, Love John.”

And so he ended his life.  His journey was over.

An Update.

His daughter and his family had to continue their journey. There has never been a day when Jonathen hasn’t been thought about and remembered. Sadly, joyfully and with tears and laughter. Even over 17 years later, there are times when we are overwhelmed with grief, quite out of the blue.

Jonathen’s daughter, his beloved Nikki Bikkie recently asked if we had any photos of her with her dad. The picture gallery below is for Nikki Bikkie.

Jonathen with Nicola in 2000 during the first few months of her life.

A little girl’s farewell to her dad, with her mum.

Nikki Bikkie is now a beautiful young woman. If Jonathen had lived, he would have been so very proud of her, and her achievements. Perhaps if had been able to survive his final depression, Nikki Bikkie could have been the happy ever after we were always seeking.