On Death and Dying
I have known Robert Scoble since he was a student at SJSU about fifteen years ago. We used to spend hours in my old office, which was inside a vault, talking about tech and also about life, our families, our pasts and futures. This was after my first wife, Candy, died in a car accident. Candy and I were estranged and had filed for divorce shortly before the accident. I was mostly staying at my sisters when Candy (as near as we could tell) fell asleep at the wheel. It was one in the morning. She had our three children in the vehicle. She was on her way home from telling her mom, who lived about 90 miles away, about our planned divorce. She was driving on a lonely two lane country road. It was raining. The heater was on as were, according to one of my sons who was awake, the wiper blades. She must have been exhausted. The road was slippery. Her vehicle slid sideways into a farmer's field, into a phone pole and she was killed when it impacted on her driver's side door. Two of the kids ended up in intensive care. All of a sudden, in the time it takes for a phone pole to shatter a life, I was a widower with three sons to raise, two of whom were in the hospital and a wife to plan a funeral for. I got by with a lot of help from my friends.
In the years that preceded this I had seen my parents die. (My father had a rare disease that there had only been about 20 cases of. It was like he won the anti-lottery.) In the years subsequent my sister and other relatives died.
Bob Scoble was there for me
Bob was there for me during that time so long ago. We talked about a lot of this in the time that followed and he listened and gave me very non-geek advice. Later, as I started dating and then even later when I met Sue, the woman who became my second and current wife he was still there for me to listen and offer good advice. Yes, he worked for me. But, I considered him a friend, peer and not as a student assistant. Sometimes I was kind of his tail gunner when he would get in trouble with the faculty and other staff (like when he'd load up their computers with buggy beta software rendering it crash prone) then they'd call me up and say, "help, I have been Scobelized!"
After Bob left SJSU he and I drifted apart. I stayed in academia, remarried and my children and wife and I got older. Bob went on to much greater things. We stayed in touch.
When Bob started blogging it seemed to me his personal-emotional side mostly stayed out of his blog.
I have seen other bloggers get very public about her feelings and personal life experiences. I have read folks I know post about their depression. One blogger posted about a personal past suicide attempt. I am pretty public as well, but still I hold back and have mostly kept my "Geek" life and my "Family" life separated into two separate blogs.
Death and dying has a way of obliterating barriers. Bob has seemed to tear down all barriers with his blogging about his mom and her recent stroke. I am touched to see it and appreciate Bob sharing his feelings with the substantial audience he has built up over the years. He is in a position to better improve people's lives and family relationships, and he is doing it. This is very ungeek like!
Next semester I am going to be teaching a course on new "Web 2.0" technology. Bob's posting has put me in a real rethink about what I should be telling students about the where the line should be, or if there should be a line at all, between our professional face and our human one.
Six Feet Under
The other day watched, thanks to Netflix, the pilot episode of "Six Feet Under". It involved a very sudden death in a car accident. It was a very well written episode, but it struck a nerve with me. It had me in tears remembering what my children and I experienced. Then I found, the next day, this old photo of mine seen above.
About the photo: This came to me then as I was walking through this cemetery with my oldest friend Marie Roby (then DuBois) while on a photo expedition. As I read the tombstone, the story of this couple's lives jelled down to a handful of statistics, about their child also buried there, I thought about the great depth of details all their lives must of been and what a story was buried there untold. I put a wide angle lens on the camera, put it on the ground and set the self timer and we posed behind the tombstone. It is still one of my favorite photos. It makes me think of my first wife, my parents, my sister and the other family and other loved ones both here and departed from my life.