The following is cross-posted at my personal blog, The Daily Dave:
I recently have discovered LinkedIn.com, the social networking Web site that's designed to be the MySpace for professionals.
Yesterday, I came across my brother Michael's profile on LinkedIn. He is a second-degree contact from me, according to the Web site. He died last year.
It's hard to describe the emotions that run through your brain when you stumble across something like this. My first impulse was to click to invite Michael to join my LinkedIn network, making him a first-degree contact. Then, with a jolt of sadness, I realized that he wasn't around to respond to the request.
When you lose someone, the loss seems so abstract. I'm finding that over time, the reminders become tinier and more tangible. In this case, Michael's death means that he will always remain a second-degree contact on LinkedIn.
It's such an insignificant thing, really.
On LinkedIn, there's a place where people can write recommendations for business partners, suppliers, coworkers and so forth. On Michael's profile page, there's a recommendation from Ben Saitz:
"Mike gets media and online advertising better than almost anyone I've worked with. He's technical, highly engaged, and extremely customer focused. I've been lucky enough to work with him at 2 different companies -- he's a great guy to have on the team!" -- July 13, 2006
-- Ben Saitz, Vice President, Client Services, DoubleClick
managed Michael indirectly at DoubleClick
Michael segregated his friends and his family. He separated his work friends from his school friends. He did this, I suppose, to maintain a sense of balance in a world in which he felt he had perilously little control. I don't know the reason, so perhaps I shouldn't speculate at all.
After Michael died, the people that he had kept apart for so many years all came together to mourn him. Seeing Mike's friends -- some, for the first time in years, and others, for the first time ever -- I'm reminded of how special, talented, smart and caring he was. Reading Ben's recommendation on LinkedIn, I'm reminded of those things all over again.
So, no, I don't get to have a first-degree contact with Michael on some Web site. That's impossible. That doesn't happen now. But maybe I get to build relationships with some of Michael's friends, who are amazing -- people like Ryan Dawson, Ben Saitz and Nicole Pruess. And maybe I get to be fortunate enough to call these people my friends too, and get to understand my brother a little better as well.