Neal Freeland

Engineering/marketing manager, family guy. My personal blog with a few work thoughts mixed in.

On Facebook my friend told me he died yesterday

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I worked at Microsoft with Steve Rider for about 18 months in 2005-2006. We built and launched live.com, which was an innovative customizable homepage (the technology was subsequently consolidated in mymsn). He was a truly talented developer, the kind that delivers more value than 10 average developers. Plus he was really nice, calm, soothing guy. I enjoyed working with him.

Last year he was diagnosed with Leukemia. He found me on Facebook and I followed his story, posting occasional words of encouragement in the comments. I remember how comforting it was to my family to receive similar notes when our daughter Amelia was in the hospital, and I was glad Steve reached out so I could do something similar for him. I drew strength and perspective from his story, marveling at his courage during the difficult treatments and ability to still find joy in short walks and small meals.

After a year of tough challenges, another surfaced last week: he caught pneumonia and went into the hospital again. Many of us sent him positive wishes, mostly expecting him to overcome them as he had done so far.

So I was not expecting, two days later, to log into Facebook and discover this:

Boom. I was standing at my home desk to quickly check status updates and the next thing I knew I was sitting on the floor. It was a surreal experience. Facebook has always been the voice of my friends, and suddenly here was one of them telling me he had died the day before. It just didn’t make sense.

Of course, the post was submitted by Johanna, Steve’s wife. I mourned him all weekend, and felt particularly moved while at church on Sunday, praying for his family and friends to find the strength to keep going. The funny thing is, before Facebook, I would have simply lost touch with Steve. We had good relations while working together, but our social worlds did not overlap. And now, thanks to the kind of technology that Steve built, I had a very real experience mourning his passing.

Steve, thank you for inviting me into your circle. You are missed terribly. Godspeed.

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Written by nealfreeland

June 11, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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