Suicide can be terribly abstract, always there, seductive in its Chattertonesque melancholia, an option that solves all the problems all at once and right now. The moment when it moves from the realm of adolescent daydream to the banal process of planning how, when and where, suicide becomes terribly real, its effects rippling out across the lives of hundreds of family, friends and colleagues. Until you have been one of those over whom its ripples have flowed, it can be hard to appreciate the impact of a momentary terminal act: once you have been involved, it is hard not to appreciate it. I shan’t forget the call I took at my desk on a quiet May Saturday morning.
A week or so later, I stood in a crowded church (was it a church – I’m afraid I didn’t notice) and looked down on a casket within which was the body of a man I had known for fifteen years, with whom I had chatted on his last afternoon alive. I had a few emotions swirling around as eyes were wiped to left and right – sadness, regret, empathy, surprise – but drowning out everything was anger. Inside the casket was the man who left his partner without her man and his four-year-0ld (four years old FFS) son without a father, a man with much to offer – but more importantly, with so much to give to those that needed it. I couldn’t get past the anger to the sympathy and, as you can tell, I still can’t.
Andre Nel is good at anger. In surely the shortest completed professional match on record, Nel / Gunter was glaring and railing at the batsmen like it was The Oval 2005 England vs Australia Fifth Test and not The Oval 2010 Surrey vs Gloucestershire another bloody Twenty20. He summoned the anger to transform Nel into Gunter and become the big, quickish wrecking ball of aggression that represented his country 117 times. Andre Nel needs that anger again, this time to direct against the man who came close to denying his unborn child a father, denying himself the future comradeship of fellow players and fans and denying his spirit the chance to rise again.
It won’t be easy, but I suspect little has come easy to Andre Nel.