The very worst thing you could do

What is the very worst thing anyone you know has ever done?

You really never know what people do when they go home and shut the door. I mean, you might think you know, but you don’t. You never really do. I have a way of assuming people just go about their lives in more-or-less normal ways, peacefully, without much going on. However, behind closed doors many people are dealing with all sorts of demons and issues from addiction to mental health problems to domestic abuse and you likely have no idea… well, unless you are dealing with those things and then I’ll tell you, the folks on the outside don’t know. They can’t help if they don’t know.

John was a fishing buddy of mine (on the back of the boat in the picture above). We met at a conference a couple years ago and when he told me about spending time as a kid at the fishing lodge his dad owned in Alaska, we kind of hit it off. We were very different people. He was a gun-loving Las Vegas Republican who voted for Trump. I’m a gun-liking-but-still-believe-in-gun-control Liberal Democrat from the SF Bay Area. Still, fishing has a way of letting people with very different views of the world share the view from a skiff (I’m looking at you Aaron). So it was with John and I.

We had some dinners together and we shared fishing stories, talking about medicine (he was a pathologist, I’m in medical testing sales) and our families. John had a new, albeit unintentional, son and he was trying to make it work with the mother, although it was not sounding like a great situation. He seemed resigned to the relationship not panning out. Still, he loved his little boy.

He went to Hawaii for his 40th and he caught his first bonefish, texting me pics, excited about a new species. I texted him pics after I finally broke my O’io curse. That was just about two weeks ago.

So it was jarring today to get a message from a mutual friend, asking if I had talked to John recently. They had heard something horrible, but didn’t know if it was true. I followed up. No answer on the cell phone and so I called another mutual friend who confirmed the absolutely shittiest news I could have imagined.

John, at some point in the past couple days, snapped. I’m guessing something about the end of the relationship with his girlfriend and custody of his son, but that’s just because I can’t imagine anything else provoking this kind of response. It looks very much like my fishing buddy John took one of his many, many guns and shot his dog, his girlfriend and his son, John Jr., before killing himself. He killed every living thing, everything that meant anything to him, in his home.

I’m kind of spinning. I don’t know what to make of it all. I’m sad for John and furious at John and none of it matters very much at all. What’s done is done and a line from a poem written by a Vietnam vet comes to mind… “there is nothing as dead as a dead child.” Children, the embodiment of the future, of hope, of dreams, of love and laughter and joy… when a child is dead, it seems so many other things die alongside them.

I can’t wrap my head around it.

I try and rewind conversations we had to see if there was a clue, but even if there was, would I have seen it? Because, who expects someone they know to do the very worst thing they can imagine anyone doing? I wouldn’t have talked to him at all if I knew he had that inside him, but I also wish I could have been more of a friend and done something to prevent it. We don’t get to wind back the clock, though. It is done and the child and the mom and the dog and my fishing buddy John are gone and we are left to grieve and wonder at the thing and regret its doing and be angry and sad and puzzled and then angry again.

My fishing buddy John, my friend John, did the very worst thing anyone I know has ever done.


National Domestic Abuse Hotline – 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255


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  1. I am so sorry for your loss Bjorn. There are no answers why people do this kind of thing. It’s hard to imagine or explain or reason through. Peace be with you.

  2. Sorry to hear that. Very tragic. It’s true, though, that everyone has their own stories and we just don’t know. Never assume we know about people and judge them.

  3. I am sorry for you Bjorn, and I am sorry for his other friends and family who are left to deal with this. I don’t understand it. I think most sane people would not.

  4. I’m truly sorry for your loss and puzzlement. Suicide is, as my ethics prof told us “was the ultimate gotcha for the survivors.” I can’t imagine cold blooded murder either. I had a similar situation recently when a colleague of mine shot himself just after he called me while I was on duty As an ER doc. He told me not to resuscitate him. We thought he was pissed at us but it turns out he had metastatic cancer and this was his way of dealing with it. No one knew, and though it gave some sort of answer it still devastated his family and many of his friends and colleagues. In the minutes after the call I tried to call his partners to try to find him but to no avail. He was in the ER parking lot hiding in the bushes with gun in hand. We couldn’t have stopped him if we tried! We had to try to save him but it was a mortal wound. I don’t blame myself but we all promised to be more thoughtful as kinder to each other. Unfortunately I’ve had cousins and a few friends commit suicide and I’ve seen more than my share of depravity at work and I can speak from personal experience that the immediate pain sucks and that it’s hard to clear your mind for a while. I’ve had a few fishing trips since and I can tell you that mountain streams and salt water flats do wash away a lot of pain! Best to you, Bjorn and thanks for sharing.

  5. Bjorn, this post was beautifully written in trying to explain a horrific, mind boggling situation. We will never know what drives these types of behavior.

    My thoughts and prayers are with all of their close friends and family.

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