Life doesn’t offer you any rehearsals for watching your best friend die. There are no test runs to let you get a feel for the panic that sets in after the initial moment of absolute shock hits your chest like a bullet fired at close range. There are no second takes to help you react the way you think you should have when given that retrospective view that your mind likes to haunt you with. No, life can’t prepare you for the worst moment of your life. It doesn’t let the final moments linger, you don’t get a strange feeling in your gut seconds beforehand. All those warning signs from the movies are just a dramatic charade to make it seem like something could’ve been done to save that tragic moment.
In real life, it just happens. No warning. No feeling. Just a split second moment of complete and utter confusion, followed by disbelief, followed by denial, and then after all of these things have taken place in just seconds, the panic sets in, and it is the panic and the utter helplessness that will haunt me for the rest of my days on this earth.
I have lost people I care about in the past, but no matter how tragic and heartbreaking the loss was, none of it compares to the feeling of watching someone you love slip away, to be a part of that moment, to share those finals seconds of life with them, their last laugh, their last words, their last breath, and to then watch them disappear from the earth through your own eyes, it is something I cannot word or even dwell on in my mind.
Two words will plague me and push me towards tears whenever I bring them to mind – ‘What if?’
Those two words are a curse I’ll have to live with, but I’m not going to sit here and write about how terrible the death of my friend was, I could, and the part of me that dwells on it and haunts me wants to get it off my chest, to word every single moment of hell in hopes of finding some kind of peace, but that’s not what he would have wanted, and I can’t bring myself to be that selfish.
Instead, I will write about Dylan Kane Etherington and the ways in which he touched my soul and lives in my heart; how he is forever young, how he died doing what he loved, and how we shared the best time of our lives together, because that is his legacy, and that is how he will be remembered.
I was in Nepal over two years ago, I had just arrived in Kathmandu after finishing a trek to Mt. Everest. I was both mentally and physically exhausted so I decided to spend a week in the city regrouping my thoughts and letting my body recover. I had a lot of emails to get through after my lengthy absence from the internet; as I scrolled down the page, I was surprised to see a message from an old friend, we had drifted apart over the last year and had lost contact, but right here was a message from him, and the weird thing is that for the duration of the trek, he had been on my mind and I didn’t know why.
I read the message, it gave me a strange feeling in my stomach.
“I have been dreaming about you, we are in a desert, somewhere in the Middle East or Central Asia I think, and we are always smiling, I know it’s weird, but I thought you might know what I’m talking about.”
I don’t know about everyone else in the world, but sometimes I get this weird feeling inside of me, it’s warm, and I somehow know that something is good, that something is meant to be happening. That is the feeling I had from that day onward. It started out as a few emails here and there, and turned into an obsession, an obsession with the idea that the two of us could throw away technology, let go of absolutely everything except a camera between us, and see the world together, in a new way, in a way neither of us had experienced before. It was like our minds had connected and everything either of us said was exactly what the other was thinking, and together we formulated a plan, he was in Denmark, I was in India at this stage, and we would meet in the middle. Every single day we would meet online and talk for hours about ideas, theories, and our endless plans. I would say that month of my life was the happiest and most mentally fulfilling month of my life to date, and it was all thanks to a friend I had known since I was twelve, living in Denmark, and who shared a dream with me. It was all thanks to Dylan Kane Etherington.
Like all good things, this came to an end, just like most people, we let the realisation that we might fail corrupt our dreams, and this seed of doubt and lack of finances brought our plan to a stand still. Again, I am haunted by those two little words that send me down hundreds of mental pathways all leading back the the same reality that is the present, – ‘What if?’
Dylan had ignited a fire in me, a fire I hadn’t let burn any brighter out of my own fear that I was alone, and that no one else would understand me. He came to me unexpectedly that day in Kathmandu and he put out his hand and he had said “It’s ok, I’m here, I can see what you see, it’s an incredible thing, and we can share it, we have a purpose, let’s do it together.”
It is that ‘we’ that I miss the most.
Over a year passed and we had both gone our separate ways, occasionally sending off an email or two to flirt with the idea of meeting up and starting up an adventure here or there, but we both had our own lives to tackle and the idea was constantly pushed behind other priorities.
I was in Australia, which by this point was a rarity, and the warm feeling came rushing over me again. I had to call Dylan. He answered.
“How did you know I was in the country? I just got in yesterday?”.
Again it seems fate was playing it’s part in our friendship, perhaps there really was something we needed to accomplish together. I was flying to Japan the following day.
“I am back in Australia for a few days between Japan and America, we have to see each other face to face and talk.”
We both had our own plans, we were both heading in different directions, and all it took was ten minutes together before rationality was thrown out the window and an hour later ‘The Detour Diaries’ was born. Weeks of planning turned into months, I was all over the place, America, UK, Europe, Africa, but it didn’t matter, we were constantly planning our new documentary series, and before I knew it we were in Italy, we had the funding we needed, the equipment, sponsorships, and endless possibilities ahead of us.
This was our dream becoming reality. This was what we were meant to be doing. As winter came to an end, we set forth towards Central Asia, our original meeting place, it was really happening, and we were smiling.
“And the last time I saw your face, you smiled. We were in Uzbekistan, and our hair had grown far longer than we had planned. You turned to me and we laughed. “We look the same.” People can go ahead and tell me that this was all just a dream, but us dreamers, well, let’s just say reality is what you make it, and I am happy to have had just one last moment with you my friend..” – William Jiraiya 23/02/10
We never made it past Bosnia.