Just because something is inevitable doesn't mean it won't take you by surprise.
All seemed normal. All seemed calm. It seemed like nothing drastic would change...How wrong I was.
I was finishing up my day yesterday when I received the news that two of my friends had passed away. While I believe that all life is sacred and that no-ones death or misfortune outweighs another, I have to admit that one of them was someone who I considered to be a closer friend than the other.
Even though we had not spoken in years, there was still an incredible amount of respect for each other. Especially as during a huge chunk of our lives, we were like brothers.
So, humour me, if you will, while I take a moment to remember my dear old friend, John Dixon. Or as he was known to most: Jadi.
Many years ago now, I was young and new to the alternative music scene. And by 'alternative', I mean the ever-expanding and constantly evolving metal scene. It was a time when Industrial and Nu-metal had begun to take the stage. Some musicians and bands were determined to keep the older styles of rock and metal alive, others were determined to make it progress faster than it should have, and the final group just wanted to live in the moment, allowing their music to respect the traditions of what came before without becoming a slave to those styles. In other words, they wanted to live in the moment and find their own voice.
I didn't know what the fuck I was doing, but that didn't stop me from needing to create music. I was willing to make mistakes along the way and learn from the lessons those mistakes taught me.
It was during this time that I met Jadi. He was a man with an extreme amount of confidence, who fully believed and lived by the fact that if you don't get to where you want to be, it's not the goal that is at fault. It's the method used to achieve that goal.
Jadi was a man who saw potential in people when no one else could. While he could be sceptical about some things, he never allowed that scepticism to obscure his judgement of others. However, he never allowed himself to fall into the trap of naivety either. Because of this, while others would see potential in someone and do what they could to squash that desire and damage that drive, Jadi did the opposite. He would breathe belief into them before lighting the fire of confidence. He would strive to do all he could to get you to believe in yourself, even if the odds were weighed against him.
When I first met Jadi, I had no belief in myself. I felt beaten down by the world and like there was no point in trying. I had come to the dreadfully wrong conclusion that there was no hope of leading a happy existence and that it was better to shut up and carry on.
Luckily for me, Jadi changed my mind. He was always respectful and always listened with focus and intent to others, which must have been hard considering his brain was always processing at a million miles a second and he constantly had more energy than the Duracell Bunny. Yet, when it came to the people he loved and cared about, he was always focused on them.
I won't say the man was perfect. Nobody is. While Jadi was always there for his friends and family, he did have a habit of seeing himself as the white knight who could fix any problem thrown his way. And unfortunately, this attitude would be more detrimental than helpful. But he never did it out of malice or egotism. He just simply wanted to protect those he cared about the most.
Jadi shined brightest when the problems his friends and family faced were internal ones. He would be there for them come Hell or high water, and he had this unique ability to pull them out of an existential hole by understanding them and what they were feeling before gently challenging their perspective on the matter. And by the end of it, he would encourage you to do what he loved doing most so that he could do it with you...He encouraged you to laugh and smile.
Jadi had many passions in his life. He loved music. He loved his guitar. He loved Martial Arts and Eastern philosophy. He loved creativity, and he admired word smiths who could pluck seemingly random words from the air and put them together in a way that formed some of the most moving sentences possible. But deep down, he loved laughter. He adored comedy and how it brought people together. He loved to smile, and it broke his heart when he saw that someone dear to him had lost the ability to.
As with all of us who laugh more than we cry, to the point where our cheeks constantly ache and those who know us best can't even imagine what it would be like to see them shed a tear, there was something more under the surface. Jadi's drive to make others smile, and his infatuation with laughter covered up the pain he carried with him.
This isn't to say that Jadi was a troubled man. Far from it. But just because he wasn't a troubled man didn't mean that he didn't have his troubles.
I am honoured to say that our friendship, during the many years it lasted, was so impactful that whenever he was depressed or life had tried to beat him down, his wife at the time would say 'You need your medicine' before handing him the phone and leaving the room so that he could call me.
We would spend hours, either on the phone or in person, just talking. We could start our conversation with well-intended ribbing and jesting one minute, and then become a pair of wise old philosophers, exploring the plethora of wisdom that had been passed down and discovered. We could spend days talking about nothing and talking about everything.
It's been nine years since we last spoke. Even though we had been great friends and I loved our friendship, we were on two different paths. One of us had outgrown the other and I still can't figure out which one of us it was.
But in the back of our minds, we still held that admiration and respect for each other. We were people from two different worlds, with two uniquely different lives and philosophies. On paper, we should have clashed and not got along. But in reality, we were kindred spirits. He was someone who had been to more weddings than funerals and I was someone who had been to more funerals than weddings. But it was that difference that united us rather than divide us.
It was heartbreaking to hear of his passing. I still don't know all of the details. What I do know is that he made a positive impression on sooooo many people and the heartache that I feel is not solitary.
Sadly, the other thing I do know is that during his last few days on this spinning mudball that we all occupy, he was in a crippling amount of pain. He had not long come out of surgery for a problem he had with his back...It's such a shame to think that someone who did all he could to relieve others of their pain so that could smile spent his last moments in agony. But he is in pain no more.
I won't go on. I could, but I won't. There are many stories to share about Jadi, but to do so would take a lifetime. Instead, I will just say this:
Jadi, I cannot thank you enough. To share a stage with you while I was coming up in the music scene was one of the biggest honours anyone could receive. Your support for my endeavours with a career in writing was unfathomable. The pride you showed when I accomplished things most people thought to be impossible was heartwarming. But most importantly, the friendship we shared was magical. I will never forget it, I will never regret it, and I will always remember the lessons you taught me.
Rest in peace, my friend. I love you.