The Story Behind the Cover

popular-woodworking-cover-e1498335691494for blog

When Megan Fitzpatrick at Popular Woodworking Magazine asked me to write a project article about an Arts and Crafts style bookcase three years ago, I had something Stickley-ish in mind. I pictured something long and low in amber maple, designed to fit behind an antique settle in the home of some clients in Chicago. There was just one catch: My clients hadn’t yet found the right settle. There was no telling how long or tall the settle would be until they had it in hand, which meant the bookcase had to wait.

After a few months, I decided to forget about trying to combine the article with a commission and just build a bookcase. My husband and I are hardcore bibliophiles; we can never have too much storage for books. But we decided that this bookcase, which would be the loveliest one I’d made to date, should have a special purpose: to commemorate our son, Jonas, who died shortly before his 16th birthday. We would call it the Jonas Longacre Memorial Bookcase.

Some people can’t bear to mention those they’ve lost, but Mark and I love to talk about Jonas. He was a self-motivated learner who excelled at school. He was always game to do his part around the house. He wanted to learn Latin and started a Latin club at his school (even though he was the only member). In fact, he was fascinated by languages of all kinds, including computer code; after his death, we found a blog post written that morning in which he proudly announced to the world that after several months of effort, he had just finished creating an online translation tool. Of course he could have used a similar tool made by someone else, but he found it more exciting to figure out how things work. Books were some of his favorite things.

Jonas with carving for blog

Jonas at 13 or 14 with a piece of limestone on which he carved a description of students at his school, using an old railroad spike

Tragically, it was just this curiosity that caused his death. I came home after work on the night of January 2, 2014 to find him lifeless. Amid the cognitive dissonance, I happened to notice that even though he had a rope around his neck, suggesting he had hung himself (which made no sense, considering how eagerly he was looking forward to the family reunion that weekend and the new semester at school), his feet were on the ground. He had also padded the rope with a t-shirt. Neither seemed consistent with intentional hanging, but I wasn’t analyzing these details as I stared, disbelieving, at his body while I waited for an ambulance to arrive. Thanks to the insight of a friend and conscientious work by the detective who came out to our house that night, we learned that Jonas had died while experimenting with the choking game.

Since that day I’ve learned a lot about the choking game, especially from Judy Rogg, who lost her own son the same way, and Trish Russell, an MD who also lost her son to this practice. Although boys are statistically more likely to die while playing this game, girls do too. Many fit a similar profile: They’re excellent students, curious about how things work, athletic, creative, and they tend not to be interested in alcohol or drugs. Hence one nickname for the practice: “the good kid’s high.”

Along with Judy, Trish, and others, I now make a point of spreading the word about this dangerous activity. Hence this post. If you have children or know others who do, please inform yourself and others.

Here’s an instructive editorial by the editor of Bloom Magazine, who knew Jonas.

Mark and Jonas at the beach - Copy

Jonas with his father, Mark, on the Delaware coast at Thanksgiving, 2013

 

8 responses to “The Story Behind the Cover

  1. He was a beautiful young man. You and your husband have my deepest sympathies.

  2. Blimey Nancy, thanks for sharing. Incredibly brave of you and helpful to those of us who don’t know about this.
    St.John

  3. Brave and true and hopeful.

  4. This is crushingly humane, Nancy. You are your own bowsprit.

    [image: SJR2CLA] Herbert Lewis Hiller Co-founder St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Alliance, Inc. http://www.sjr2c.org https://www.facebook.com/SJR2C/ (386) 547-0395 herbhiller12@gmail.com 321 N. Clara Avenue DeLand, FL 32720

    On Sat, Jul 1, 2017 at 10:36 AM, Making Things Work wrote:

    > nrhiller posted: ” When Megan Fitzpatrick at Popular Woodworking Magazine > asked me to write a project article about an Arts and Crafts style bookcase > three years ago, I had something Stickley-ish in mind. I pictured something > long and low in amber maple, designed to fit b” >

  5. Mark Longacre

    Forever loved, always missed, dear Jonas.
    Thanks honey for sharing this.
    Love, M

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