This is for my son James,known online as Dredwerk.
“shazzbat blazzadoo, you little diggieboodies!“
“James was the best son a man could have” How many times have you heard a parent/dad say something like this? When a child passes before their parent these kind of words are easily said. In my case, as I suspect in all cases, it is meant and said with an unshakeable truth. I also say this very same thing about James-it is an undeniable fact of my life.
James was studying at a local college, hoping to get to university later.He was doing IT and doing it very very well. I still have all his textbooks and college books and sometimes I look thru it and wonder…I remember his textbook on tcp/ip and frankly, was lost in its complexity…I remember going to his parents evening after meeting up with my ex-missus and going down to the college together,we only saw 3 tutors as the place was crowded. One of these tutors was the one that James was most worried about, the programming part of the course.This lady was evidently a very good and very critical tutor who did`nt pull her punches according to James.He need`nt have worried on this score-she was overjoyed with his work and promised “great things” from James-she loved him to bits-he got an “A” in programming I believe that very day! The only one in the college to achieve it too! The other 2 tutors simply expressed that they wished all the other students were like James and how good he was! Well needless to say we were both overjoyed and hurried home to tell him! He was well-pleased with it all to say the least…..
20 days later he was dead by his own hand…and we don`t know why.
“he showed me the shit he could do…and my mouth hit the floor, broke it and went into the basement!“
I believe one of the best things he did while in college was an `Outward Bound` course. Along with about 30 students or so they were taken to the Lake District, England for 5 days to partake in some serious physical endeavours and also some academic evening work in the “presentation” arena. Now this course, much as I wanted him to go on it, worried me the most, as I knew that he`d never really pushed himself in any physical sense and was not into sports in any way….
I kept up with what he was up to by way of the program they gave me and in fact emailed the course tutor just asking how he was, nothing soppy! He was fine! He came home full of it! Loved it to bits and accomplished challenges that he never thought himself capable of! Yay! Especially the abseiling bit-he said he could`nt believe he`d done it, stepping off a very steep incline backwards and getting down to the ground was his biggest fear! He did it and in my mind, alot more, even worse things! My ex-wife and I were given a very moving tour of the course by the tutor, he showed us everything James did and the hill/cliff he abseiled down and the wonderful old building at the top of Lake Ullswater which was their base for the week…..He gave me a cd with pics of the students and James on the course and their full program and I am very indebted to him for this as it took alot of time and work on his part to prepare…..
“my philosophy: lifes like a bull, grab it by the horns, jump on its back and ride it like a whore!”
James was a serious net-head! He loved the good `ol interweb! When we first got our connection in about 1996 he was about 12 and so did`nt really get to grips with it due to him not living with me at the time apart from weekends….and it was win95 os and the isp kept losing it and the computer did`nt really want to know about anything unless it was the “paint” program!!!! Yep, them were the days!!
Previous to windows, we had used an amiga for a couple of years and he totally loved it to bits and had become really proficient with some of the early games and the old “workbench” environment. He loved to write and draw on computers and designed many a touching and funny picture to adorn our walls! The dot-matrix printer had a lot of laughs trying to print them out too!! They were lovely lovely days in retrospect!
Then we got to Win98 and there was no holding him back now, he was off and running…and running very very fast.I remember going to pick him up one Friday night for the weekend and him saying quite calmly to me that he had to learn html this weekend so he would need to stay in! The thing is-he did it!! By sunday afternoon he could write a basic website in html and proudly showed me his endeavour in notepad! Ok, now I knew I was in trouble-I could`nt get a handle on things this fast at the best of times!
(once-we went into the city to get the latest Voodoo graphics card-got it, went back home-i said I`d stick it in and get it running for the following weekend as I did`nt want to disturb his computer usage this weekend-he agreed and so we left it. So in the week I put the card in-nothing! Absolutely nothing-no image-total black screen-nothing…in desperation I called out an engineer thinking the machine was throwing a fit or something-in he came, grabbed my box, looked at the Voodoo, looked at me-then went `thunk` on the card and in it went-all the way as it should! I just had`nt seated it in the slot all the way! Embarrassing!? You bet! He laughed and said it happened all the time! Great way to earn some money he reckoned!)
Now James got seriously interested in art/design as well as some gaming and in 2000 Deviantart was born on the web. This became his home on the net, though towards the end he was moving away to other skinning/art sites such as LotsOfSkins, Deskmod, Skinbase and others. He loved the community feel and interaction and made many a friend in these places. On Deviantart he met “Antisleeper” who became probably his closest online friend and in “real life” he knew “Rmc” who was probably more advanced in the programming field than James though James was ahead in the art/design aspect. They would have made a great team and they had ideas for a website that would have been a delight to have seen. James “talked” online alot with Antisleeper and I hoped one day they would meet-it never happened of course.
I owe Antisleeper and Rmc alot of thanks-they both helped me an awful lot after James passed…Rmc actually contacted the admin Jark( great bloke-founder of Deviantart!) to tell him of James` passing. He never goes back to the site unless its as a “normal” user-he won`t sign into his account name though which I am eternally sorry for-and Antisleeper who agreed to send me all his conversations he had with James, completely untouched so I could just read how my son was and felt about things. Antisleeper never knew of James` impending suicide, never had any idea…I thought it was a really big thing he did-allowing me to read these conversations, I still go over them to this day-they are a great source of comfort somehow…
“nah, I wanna travel far far away…”
James appeared to have a number of projects in mind the week he died – he was supposed to have gone to Rmc`s house to plan their new web-site the previous weekend but did`nt go for some reason-he then was wanting to go the following weekend…but died before he could..
He was going to be helping an old school friend plan a repeat visit to our biggest Themepark, Alton Towers where he and a couple of friends had gone before and had alot of fun….
The day he passed away he was at Salford University with his college-getting a taste for Uni. life.He had a picture taken which he was happy to show me when he got home on the web-I love it to bits as it showed him as he really was and very natural looking. They used it on a website they made while there with a tutor. James was quite unhappy with this as he thought the idea of using templates to learn with abysmal and self-defeating.Too easy! He also expressed a strange dislike for the fences surrounding the Uni which I found a bit unusual and “different” somehow. We had a relatively normal evening but the next day he was dead….My last words to him were to remind him, rather jokingly, that “Ally McBeal” was on the box at midnight if he wanted it…as he had a late start at college the next day…it never happened.
Okay, theres a little of James~ I`m not going to describe his passing or what else happened because it won`t be “right” for me to do so but I will tell one small tale that is very true.
In the most horrible aftermath of the next few days I was visited by a lady who evidently lived around the corner- I had seen her around and about often and knew her as one of those neighbours that you don`t know! She told me a story re. her daughter, who was about James` age, she told me that her daughter was going to commit suicide but after seeing the hurt and pain it caused she had thought again and had talked to her mum about it…..so some good had come from this tragedy.
We placed James` ashes on the hillside in the Lake District where he had conquered his greatest fear, we felt this was the best place, he was out now, travelling far far away finally…we`ll meet again Big Man…”its just a little time….”
Let me add that writing about my son in the past tense and about him is not easy. Let me add that suicide is not in any way an easy subject for me to address now that I have become a “survivor”.To get just some idea of its pain I wish you please to go read this Memo to Suicidal People, by Tony Salvatore, a man who lost his son also in 1996 …this man has put into words everything I would want to say but could`nt, he says it all and he says it exactly how it is. He is right on every count and his passion is strong…I grieve with him…and so should you…
…a link to James` page at deviantArt