It's been 12 days since the death of a dear dear friend Mark Johnson. He considered me a brother in his eyes and I reciprocated similar feelings back. I don't know why it took me so long to finally talk about it fully; maybe the grieving I thought was over was still down deep inside and needed a little longer, or it was how he died and the ugly truth that was there I didn't want to face and move on. Either way I think it's time to finally get it out there and officially express my feelings about his death, who he was in my eyes and what powerful influences he will always have. How's that for a thesis statement all you English majors, haven't written one of those in about 2 years it seems. Anyways, let's get the ugly truth out there so we can end on more positive notes. Mark Johnson, for those who didn't know him, was Shakopee Tennis' Director of Tennis for 2 years ('07 and '08), a well known tennis pro in the cities, and friends to everyone he met! Prior to him being my boss for summer tennis, I took club lessons from him and Ron York my senior year of high school at Northwest Athletic Club in Burnsville. Won't lie, preferred Ron's coaching style to Mark's!:) And when I heard he was going to be director of tennis at Shakopee I had mixed emotions. All of those mixed emotions changed the very first day I re-met him. After our coach's meeting he sat down with me privately and we talked about the upcoming summer and him knowing about my involvement with Shakopee Tennis the past 17 years, and his assumptions about my feelings about him being there and the fears I would have. What he said next would change any thoughts I had about him immediately. He said (word for word): "Steve, I know you probably don't think to highly of me right now coming into Shakopee as the new director and your new boss thinking I'm going to change everything, but please don't think of me as a "boss," but as a partner. I know you're the big head honcho around here, I'm just here to make sure you stay on the right track and give advice when needed. The last thing I want is to change things and piss you off. You are the soul of Shakopee Tennis, I know this, the students know this, and the coaches know this. I'm here to help you man, so let's keep things out on the table, in the open. You got a problem, something pissing you off, you tell me, you say hey Mark I hate what you're doing man, let's change this. I'm a very open person, and I'm really looking forward to working with you this summer." Mark had this 6th sense of knowing what needs work and what should just be left alone and tweaked a little. Shakopee Tennis was Mark's tweaking!! With that being said it brings me to how he died and the frustrations we all have been dealing with since. Monday January 11, 2010 Mark committed suicide. Unfortunately that is my 4th suicide in my life I've had to deal with, 3 classmates and now Mark. However, none have been so close to me like Mark was. Which made how I dealt with it that much harder, but knew it had to be dealt with. I don't give respect to death by suicide, it's a selfish death, and makes all loved ones around them filled with anger and "what if's." What if I talked to them more, what if I called them before they did it, etc. I lose respect for that person, they become more distant to me, and cold as it may be, I grieve over their death a lot quicker. My opinion for grieving with suicide is 1 day and move on. He was a grown man and knew if he needed help he should have searched for it. What he did was unforgettable and HURT everyone around him. I love Mark like a brother and always will, but the respect I had for him will die more and more each day. You just don't do it, no matter what life throws at you. Life is hard, we all know this by now, you gotta push through it and if you struggle seek help. From family, friends, God, whoever you find comfort with you go there. I don't see the point in suicide, I don't see what good comes from it (NONE), and it hurts a heck of a lot more for those around you then a natural death. If you want to give up on life and end it, then why should loved ones sit around in the after math grieving for you, you should be grieving for us, doing that to everyone who's shown you nothing but love. Sounds cold but that's how I feel and deal with it. There's no one method in dealing with suicide, you just do what YOU feel you need to do to show what respect they deserve in the after life. I believe 1 day is enough, then move on. If you feel they deserve more, more power to you and your beliefs. I will not go into the issue of forgiveness with God, that belief will stay inside of me. Mark will be greatly missed. When he was on this Earth he brought smiles to everyone. The energy he possessed on and off the court was contagious. He was such an easy-going guy and one of the best mentor's I have had so far in life. Suicide will not change those feelings about him...ever! Tennis world has lost one heck of a coach and instructor, but most importantly we have lost one amazing friend. I will miss him greatly, along with everyone who knew him. Rest in peace Mark Johnson and your presence will forever surround the court.
"Take it easy, love you brother" -Mark Johnson