The Adventures of Cindy Li
A Farewell to my friend, Philip Kim in the digital age
July 8 , 2009
Once upon a time…
I received a phone call that no one ever wants to get. It’s taken me a while to write this post because it was about someone dear to me. I’ve started a few times to write this but could never finish. My friend Philip Kim passed away on March 12, 2009; he was 40. I found out while I was at SXSWi, this past march.
Technology has changed the way we send and share information. My friend, Chris first tried to call but since it was during a conference session my iPhone was on vibrate. I texted him and he texted “call me.” I knew something was wrong. There was just something that didn’t felt right. Chris knew I was at SXSWi and he knew I would be busy. Chris had called a friend (because he found out about Philip’s passing while on the way to a hiking trip) to check on the SXSWi speaker schedule online to make sure I wasn’t speaking that day. This was a good thing because as soon as Chris told me I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. I was in the midst of helping Jared Spool clean up after his presentation and had to run into the hallway to find a wall to hold me up. I wanted to hide and run far away from the crowds at SXSWi. I had 24 hours to get myself composed enough to deal with people, in case anyone wondered why I wasn’t really around or a bit distant; I was mourning. I wanted to let people know but I didn’t want to twitter about Philip’s passing. Chris was worried I’d find out via Facebook or Twitter. Learning about something so personal to me virally is not a positive product of social networking.
How we met
I met him in real life, I met Philip at AOL. I was at a point in my life where I really needed a friend and Philip’s infectious laughter was something that no one could resist. I do thank god for sending me good friends when I was at my weakest. Philip became a guardian angel of mine. Philip was one of the amazing people that you were lucky to know because he just got you, or me in this case. If you’ve ever had a friend that just seemed to know you without explanations this was one of those people. He had a sister, Annah, that he loved very much. He also got you to laugh at yourself. I burned my forehead once with a curling iron and tried to hide it. Sadly he knew exactly what it was from. His sister apparently had done this too. If you could hear his laughter you would laugh too. He giggled like a little boy that knew he had done something he shouldn’t have. He always had a hint of mischief, the best friends usually do. :)
He was protective of the people he cared about too.He walked me to my car after swing dancing at the Clarendon ballroom because it wasn’t well lit and it was late at night. He took me to “grown up” restaurants because being the metro-sexual man he was he liked eating well. He was meticulous about his house and his clothes. Philip understood having Christian backgrounds and the energy it took in our attempts at living the life our Asian parents hoped for us. He usually smelled of Polo, the green bottle. He challenged me think about the future outside of AOL. You need friends that push you further than you realize you can. Encouragement, that is a gift of friendship.
Philip was an artist; he was a professor. He told me once he wanted to be a farmer. He also told me he wanted to design and build furniture. He researched and found a class that he could take during the summer. We talked about what we wanted when we “grew up.” Philip didn’t just dream he also did make things happen for himself. He was just at that point of getting everything he dreamed of. He had just started to run marathons, that’s how he discovered something was wrong. He was in top form and he lost weight but somehow something wasn’t quite right.
He was diagnosed with from a form of Leukemia called Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He fought it for almost 3 years. He had to move from San Francisco back to the Washington DC area because his family was in Northern Virginia and his sister got him into the National Institute of Health hospital. I visited him a few times while he was there. Things have changed post 9-11 your car gets searched when you enter the gate. Your ID is checked. After he told me what he was diagnosed with I joined the Leukemia & Lymphoma foundation group in DC. I volunteered what time I had and tried to do my part. I offered to donate my marrow but his sister was a match so that wasn’t necessary. If you feel like donating here’s the donation page for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society.
The digital age
Technology has changed so much of how we interact. It made me think of how one would go about notifying everyone in their circle of friends in the event of someone passing away.
Philip’s sister created a Facebook group. She knew him well enough to get into his laptop to access his address books to let his friends know what had happened. The concern is always missing someone. Annah is a strong woman but sharing the news of Philip’s passing over and over is too much for anyone person to shoulder alone. Thankfully there are avenues such as email, and Facebook to allow us to share the news good or bad. It allowed Philip’s friends to post pictures, and messages about him and for him. Another friend, Holly Liu that Philip introduced to me even organized a couple of meet-ups for those that couldn’t attend Philip’s memorial all in Facebook.
There has to be an easier way. My friend Jared Spool twittered about Philip’s passing for me while at SXSWi and unfortunately my friend P. found out this way. She said it was strange to find that out via twitter. Jared suggested that I contact various people to make them notify other people. I have to say Facebook was the easiest way because each phone call I made to let another friend know became increasingly painful.
Figuring passwords of laptops and information to access other information is also just as painful when you are in the midst of grieving. I tried to help Annah go through some of the computers thankfully she knew her brother rather well so she could guess some of them. I have 1Password and it creates very secure passwords but I’m the “techy” one in my family. I wonder if they would be able to access my information if they needed to.
I also wonder what happens to his website (renewing his domain) and his information on places like LinkedIn, and Facebook? I know that previously people created MySpace pages and if someone passed away they turned it into a memorial page. Death in the digital age is even more complicated. It is more complicated in that we get bills virtually and there isn’t a paper trail for loved ones to find. Mourning is difficult enough without having to complete a scavenger hunt.
Technology allows us to be connected and at the same time its also nice to have face time with the people you care about. I challenge you to call, email or message someone to let them know you care. To make the most of your life. It’s something I am trying to do myself. Make the days count and live the life you want even if it scares you so much you pee in your pants ;).