My friend Jonathan
I want to talk about my friend Jonathan. Jonathan Waite was a colleague when I worked at the Premier League and he worked at Spurs. But I think that everyone who met Jonathan would consider him a friend. And yes, we have to talk about him in the past tense. Because a week ago Jonathan died suddenly and unexpectedly. One minute he was posting pics on Facebook of him on the beach with his dog Baxter, and the next thing we knew he was, inexplicably, gone. Long illnesses are hard, but this, the suddenness with which he was taken, was heart-breaking.
His passing (I can’t yet cope with the blunter words) has left a gaping hole in the lives of everyone he worked with. Because Jonathan was one of those people who have a positive effect on everyone they meet. I knew him at Spurs and over the last couple of years since I left the PL we met for beer or coffee (ok, usually beer) and chewed the fat about all sorts of things. But I reckon people he only met in passing probably felt they’d made a friend, because that’s how he made people feel. He supported my local team QPR and understood completely when I diverted my attention from football to community issues after the Grenfell fire. Because one of the things lots of people have been saying about Jonathan is that “he got it”. He understood. He understood why community and place are important, why football fandom isn’t a transactional relationship, and he always had his priorities right. Jonathan was the guy everyone trusted and respected. The one we rang when we wanted to know if our idea was a good one or a crazy one, when we wanted to know if our strategy would work. And most of all he was the guy we rang to have a beer with because he was fabulous company. He loved music, football and life. I wasn’t special. I wasn’t one of his closest friends. I didn’t even see him that often. But that’s my point really. To meet him Jonathan was to like him, and so many of us could call him a friend.
Jonathan was generous and kind. He was generous with his time, his thoughts, his ideas, and kind with his words and actions. His last three interactions on Linked In say it all “Well deserved Dave” to a colleague shortlisted for an award Jonathan previously won. “Good luck Rebecca!! see you on Wednesday :o)” and “Sure am! See you there!” to another colleague he hoped to see at a match. Always encouraging, always enthusiastic. He was always listening, always humble and above all he was loved by an incredible number of people. Happiest with the family he adored, he knew how to enjoy life at work too. And he made the most of every minute of every hour. He turned up at everything. You could always trust him to show up. But he didn’t just turn up, he was present, he took an interest and he made people feel like they were doing a good thing. And this is one of the many reasons why everyone from supporters to CEOs are mourning him now. He was, quite simply, the first name on the team sheet.
So why am I posting this? Does this emotional stuff belong here? I expected my first blog on here to about devotion to causes. Well Jonathan was devoted to everything he did. And I’m doing this because I knew Jonathan through work, and work relationships matter. When people tell me “oh I see enough of my colleagues at work, I don’t want to spend time with them outside of that” or “ they’re just people you work with” I don’t get it. Sure, that’s relevant for some people but I’ve also met some of my closest friends through work. One of them I worked with over 30 years ago and we’re closer than ever. When I left my last job the hardest part was leaving my team behind. I worked with some amazing people and not seeing them every day, leaving to freelance and work at home…..that was the hard bit. So I believe we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of those relationships. Many people will spend more time with the people they work with than with their families. So let’s value that. I’ve balled my eyes out the last few days. Sobbed like a child. I cannot believe he’s gone. And I know how much other people I care about are hurting. So I’m going to cherish every moment I spent with Jonathan. Every witty comment, every bit of advice, every joke we shared. And above all I will cherish his generosity of spirit and his wonderful smile.
JW, we miss you like you can’t imagine. You’ll Never Walk Alone