My friend Guy Reynolds, an award-winning photojournalist and former Advocate staffer, went toe-to-toe with cancer for more than two years. It was stage 4, one of the toughest to overcome, entailing dozens of treatments and the loss of his esophagus. But he would be buoyed by the love of his family and friends.
Everyone knew that he was facing a race rarely won. Guy boldly took on the draining, emotional grind of the treatments and used his incredible photography skills to document his agonizing medical trials on Facebook.
He had a national cheering section. We waited to see every installment and also to look at his gift, the ability to compose a picture that few other photographers could envision. Last year, he got incredible news. His cancer had gone into remission. Essentially, he had scored an unbelievable last-second touchdown against the dreaded crosstown champion. Guy had won.
But recently, Guy “died by depression,” the preferred terminology now for suicide. His lifelong battle with mental illness and depression was just too much to overcome. He was overwhelmed by a mind that pilfered the joy out of his life.
Guy volunteered to work with the Meals on Wheels Program to deliver food to the elderly. He continued to do it even after he got mugged on one of his routes. He loved life. He loved people. As his oldest daughter Katie put it, “He gave into that lying S.O.B. in his brain.”
In my former life as a newspaperman, I worked with Guy and his former wife, Annette. Guy was a brilliant photographer, and he was a cool person to be around. He would sometimes ask me about the African American community and people who were struggling. He was sincerely curious.
Guy later become the head of photography at The Dallas Morning News and was part of a team there that won a Pulitzer. He remarried. Guy was loved and respected by his colleagues. His photos were mesmerizing.
How did Guy fall into this dark pit? His eldest daughter, Katie Kinard, discussed in matter-of-fact terms the treacherous road that is mental illness and depression. It was interesting listening to Katie because I still see her as that very little girl who played with my son when they very young. They were born the same year.
Now 34, Katie explained that she didn't understand until her early teens that her dad had serious mental issues — manic and emotionally high some days and down in the dumps on others. He was bipolar.
Sometimes, Guy would miss his medication and go through smoking binges. He would implore the girls, “Don’t tell your mother.” Sometimes, he would go through temper tantrums and say outlandish things that he would apologize for later. With his photography, “When he was manic, he was brilliant. When he was not, he was very good,” Katie said.
Among his co-workers and friends, Katie added, “Everyone knew what he was going through. They loved him. When he was manic, he would talk to everyone about it.”
But there would be the dark moments when he would say, “I don’t deserve to be here. I’m not worth your love. You’re better off without me”
Guy's contradictions were hard to understand. When he came out of surgery to remove his esophagus, he joked, “No toe tag.”
He loved life and saw things other people didn’t, and he had a great sense of humor. She described the time he took a photo of a cigarette butt in a crack in the sidewalk. “He called it a butt crack,” she laughed.
“I still pick up pennies on the sidewalk because he did it,” she said.
Katie has suggestions for family members of those going through depression. Be available whenever those people need you. She said she would leave messages with Guy saying that “I just loved him. I loved him — all of the family did — in the good and bad, too. I can’t tell you if it made a difference, but it made me feel good.”
Katie has had a bout with depression herself. She encourages those like her to seek treatment immediately. “There is no shame in seeking therapy. If you have cancer, you are going to get treatment. If you have depression or mental issues, you need to reach out and get help.”
Even though Guy eventually died, Katie added, family and friends shouldn’t beat themselves up. “You don’t know how many times (calling, texting, emailing or coming to talk to him) that you may have saved him,” she said.
In the end, she said, “I wished our love would have been enough. It wasn’t.”
Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column, at email@example.com.