Tag Archives: death

Derek Miller, Cancer and The End Game

This is a guest post written by my Community Manager Kat. Derek was a friend of mine for about six years, and his loss leaves a large hole in my heart and within the Gnomedex community.

On the morning of May 4th, 2011, I read fourteen words that stopped me in my tracks. Though I had been expecting them for weeks, I still felt this huge surge of denial. My friend of more than four years, Derek Miller, is now gone from this world. He wrote what was to be his final blog post not long before he died, and a family friend published it the morning after he left us. It was several hours before I could bring myself to read beyond those fourteen words.

“Here it is. I’m dead, and this is my last post to my blog.”

It’s not as though I’m new to this whole dying thing. Being forty years old, I have dealt with a lot of death in my lifetime: grandparents, two best friends, various relatives – and my hero… my big brother Jimmy. Though we shared a love of music, blogging and all things geeky, it was the story of my brother’s cancer – and death at the age of 36 – which brought Derek and I closer together as friends. When Derek announced late last fall that he had decided to give up treatment and live out the rest of his life HIS way, the connection began. I sent an email to him, telling him how my brother made the same decision… how strong he was, how he fought hard for so many years. Derek’s reply – he titled it “The End Game” – was one I will treasure forever. He later gave me permission to share this with all of you when the time came. Sadly, the time is now.

We always use the words fight and battle in conjunction with cancer. That’s what it seems like, you know? It’s not something we chose, and it’s so difficult to go through. It takes a horrible toll on the patient and their families – both mental and physical. It’s as though you’re fighting in a war… one you pray to win. In this reply, though, Derek taught me that having cancer isn’t a battle at all.

“I would change one word now, after four years: “fight.” I’ve used that word a lot too, but I’ve recently begun to change my tune. Why must it be a fight, a war or a battle? Those are stressful, soul-draining things, with images of violence and winners and losers.

I think less personally about my cancer than I used to. I fought it hard, I used to tell it to fuck off, I used to imagine the chemo snuffing it out like carpet bombing over Cambodia. More recently I’ve thought, no, cancer has no mind, no evil intent, no demon driving it.

I hate that it will kill me, and what that will do to my family. It’s sad and unfair. But there’s no one and nothing to blame. It’s a pure example of “shit happens.” Like your brother, my time has come to win the battle by not fighting anymore, by pushing back against the desire to treat the end of my life as a war and myself as a soldier. The human mind and heart deserve better than war, whether in Afghanistan or in the brain of a cancer patient.”

During the four years he had cancer, Derek blogged every step of his journey. His honesty and bluntness about what he was going through won the hearts of thousands from all over the world. Even a week later, people are mourning his loss on their social networks and blog pages. His story – and that of his final blog post – has been featured on websites such as CNN. Derek touched so many with his strength, his humor and his love of life.

Derek Miller touched me with his simple acceptance of what was to be. He helped me finally let go of the anger I still harbored towards my brother for giving up his treatments and leaving us… ten years ago. I hadn’t even realized it was still buried inside of me until Derek and I began talking. Of course it hurts to not have my big brother here, but it’s much easier to deal with now. I understand exactly where Jimmy was coming from… why he made the choices he did. I owe that understanding to Derek.

The penmachine was so full of life… passion… intelligence… love of friends and family… humor… wisdom. I have shed more than a few tears since learning of his passing. But I am doing my best not to break the promise I made to him a few months ago. It is a one that I hope each of you will vow to keep, as well.

Derek asked me not to mourn his death, but to use it as an example to others. He hoped that I could take what I learned from our friendship and use it to help people in similar situations. Cancer is evil, of that there is no doubt. It rips apart our lives and the world as we know it. But it doesn’t have to be a “fight.” It’s not a war. It’s an illness that we do our best to overcome. When there is no hope of surviving it, the way we choose to deal with the emotions, decisions and the end of our life is what people will remember.

Derek Miller will forever be remembered for the courage, strength, humor and dignity he carried with him until after he was gone. I only hope my loved ones can say the same about me one day, no matter what takes me from this Earth.

Goodbye, my friend. Thank you – for everything. To Airdrie, Marina and Lauren: please know that you have the love, prayers and thoughts of thousands of people with you. I hope that the strength we share with you will somehow be able to make its way into your hearts, bringing some measure of comfort and peace.

Why Should You Grow Up?

“I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys “R” Us kid…” How many times have you sung this little ditty in response to someone mistaking you for an adult? I may be a tad closer to forty than thirty now, but I’ve often said that I refuse to grow up. I’ve come to learn this week, though, that there is a difference between growing up and allowing yourself to embrace your inner child as a responsible adult. There’s something to be said for figuring out what it is you want to do with this life, and then actually going out and doing it.

On Wednesday morning, I learned of the death of long-time friend Derek Miller. Derek had been battling cancer for several years, and decided with his wife and physician back in November to suspend treatment. He wanted to live the rest of his life on his own terms – in his own way. I admire him for that. I’m not sure I would have the courage to do the same thing.

My initial reaction to the news of his death was sadness, much like the rest of our community. I also became angry, railing at Fate or God or whoever decided it was “time” to take such a young and GOOD person from this Earth – from his family and friends. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, though, a different thought took shape. I began to ask myself what it is I can learn from Derek’s life and his too-soon death. After all, aren’t we supposed to learn and grow from every experience we go through?

It’s time to grow up. Stop wasting your time drifting through life. I’m not only talking about your education and career. Figure out the things that are truly important to you. Decide what you want to do with your life and freaking do it already. Who cares if you fail? At least get your butt out there and try. Forget waiting for someday to get here so you can learn to para-sail or program or whatever else it is you keep putting off. Someday isn’t ever coming, my friends.

Don’t waste your life. Go after your dreams, even if they seem impossible. Reach for the stars, push yourself beyond the limits you think you have and just generally light a fire under your ass. Work hard, play hard and let that inner child have fun along the way.

Live your life.

How Would You Spend Your Last Hour?

You have just been told that your life will end in sixty minutes. How do you spend that last hour? I can’t help but think about what it is that I would do if I knew I had only an hour left to live. Would I call everyone I love to say goodbye? Would I cuddle with my beloved pets? Would I take a relaxing soak in the Jacuzzi and let the Grim Reaper take me the way I came in to the world – naked and wet?

In reality, I think I’d do my best to leave my mark on the world in those final moments. I’d like to believe that I could come up with something profound to say – some type of important advice to leave behind. There are plenty of things floating around in my noggin that have never been said or written down. Taking that last hour to get them out there for others to learn from would be a pretty cool way to wind down life.

Then again – why the hell are we waiting until our final hour to share our brain with the masses? Why aren’t we out there doing it every hour of every day?

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How to Share Your Life Online

Have you ever had someone tell you that you shouldn’t have posted something on your Twitter or Facebook account? Were you perplexed by their seeming inability to “get” whatever it was you were trying to say – and why? Community member Mitch Bartlett recently had this experience. He recently lost his Dad after a long battle against Cancer. Mitch chose to post a short message on his Facebook wall. The next morning, his cousin called to yell at him about his choice of posting this information in such a public manner.

There are many people who still view the Internet as some type of toy. They simply aren’t connected in the ways you and I are. We live our lives online. What better way to spread news of a life event or receive support in a time of need than by reaching out to your online community – a part of which often includes your relatives and close personal friends? Why is it “wrong” for us to share every part of our lives with our connections – good OR bad?

What are your thoughts? Do you feel that there are some things that should never be shared in a public space online? Or – do you side with Mitch when he says that “the Internet is a tool that enriches your life, no matter the scenario?”

You don’t have to worry about sharing anything at all when you visit our software center – other than your love of great programs!

Why Are Foxconn Employees Dying?

In just a few months’ time, there were nine suicide attempts, with seven confirmed deaths in Foxconn’s factory in Shenzhen, China. The Foxconn employees kept dying, and one reporter wanted to try to understand why. What 20-year-old Liu Zhi Yi learned shocked and saddened him, and is opening the eyes of the world to the deplorable conditions in the factory.

Every one of these people is living their life in an automated fashion. They go to work, they get off of work and then they sleep. There is no relaxation or fun to their lives, for there isn’t time. When the young people are hired at Foxconn, they have to sign a voluntary overtime agreement wherein they won’t hold the company liable for having to work extremely long hours. Much of the time, the employees don’t even get to know the name of the person working beside them. The reporter believes this is due to the fact that every person must dress the same and perform identical tasks day after day after day. This alienates them from each other, and causes them to feel as though there is no one to really talk to.

The only happy day in the employees’ lives fall on the 10th of each month: payday. The workers crowd the ATM machines to withdraw their meager salaries, which aren’t enough to own one of the products they are assembling. Wages there begin at around $130.00 U.S. dollars per month. Many of the workers are jealous of those who fall ill. Those are the only people who get any type of real rest and sleep. Liu Zhi Yi suspects that the employees begin to feel as though the only way to break this cycle is through death.

Since this report has come to light, there have been rumors as to the steps Foxconn is taking in order to help alleviate this problem. They are setting up support lines, stress relief rooms, counseling classes and monetary rewards for reporting a mood problem a colleague may be having. Will these things help in any way? Possibly… however, it would help a lot more if Foxconn would simply improve the working conditions – and lives – of these people. It’s sad when one employee admitted that he intentionally drops things on the floor, just so that he can stoop down for a moment and relieve the pain in his back and joints from standing for so many hours.

What will it take to make things better? How about giving the employees ways to relieve stress and have a little bit of fun? Why not pay them a bit more, since Foxconn reportedly had a $565 MILLION profit in the first quarter of this year alone. Does that not scream out loud to anyone else? If the company is rolling in that type of profits, why then are there still employees who are unhappy enough over their horrible working lives and conditions that they would choose death over repeating their workday again? There needs to be one hell of a lot more done to help these workers… these human beings… than what measly attempts the company has made thus far.

How Much of Your Life is Online?

Earlier tonight, I posted here on my blog about what to do with your digital assets when you pass away. That’s quite thought-provoking, isn’t it? Think about it. I bet you have a Myspace or Facebook account. You probably have a Twitter account. I *hope* you have a Geeks account. You have email accounts. You have IM accounts. I have no idea what all other websites and forums you might belong to, as well. Face it – your life is online a lot more than you probably realize.

Thinking of our own mortality is not something we generally like to do. I know I don’t, and I’m willing to bet you don’t either. Sadly, it’s a fact of life… we will all die one day. Instead of putting something important off until a tomorrow that may never come, you should do something about it today. Check out that post, and the site that it talks about. Do yourself, your friends, your family and your social contacts a favor, and make the inevitable a little easier for them to manage.

I didn’t only read my own posts today, though. Of course I spent time going through our great community, seeing what all of you are up to. I love doing these roundups, where I can highlight some of the best that’s out there. Make sure you take time to check in on others… and post something great yourself, so that you can be featured next!

How to Save Your Digital Assets When You Die


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Inevitably, we’re not going to be here at some point in time. Death comes to us all. In knowing our own mortality, we can enjoy life while we’re here. What happens to your online self when you pass on, though? I’ve had to deal with online friends who have passed away. Not only is it very upsetting emotionally – it also can be confusing. You still have them as contacts on all of your social sites. You know you should delete them – but you just can’t make yourself. So what should you do to help make this situation easier? What happens to “you” when you pass away?

There’s a service that a friend of mine has created that can help you handle all of this. Legacy Locker is a safe, secure repository for your digital property that lets you grant access to online assets for friends and loved ones in the event of death or disability.

Sign up for an account. This will then become the place that when you’re no longer around, your loved ones (whom you choose) can gain access to your accounts everywhere. They can then take control of your online life… either removing or archiving your content. They can carry out whatever wishes you have about the online content and life you have created.

I want to make sure everything is taken care of the way I want it when I pass on. I have created an account with Legacy Locker, and I have given access to two people that I trust completely to carry out those wishes.

If you click the sign up button, you’ll be taken to the pricing page. You can get a free account that allows you to give access to one person, and store only three assets. We all have a lot more than three! You can choose to pay a yearly subscription at about $30.00. Or… you can choose to pay a one-time fee of $299.00 – and have this service for life. Think about it… do the math… that’s a good deal.

It’s even better if you sign up and use coupon code chrispirillo. In that case, you’ll save $50.00!! That’s one heck of a deal.

If you haven’t taken a look at this yet, I really think that you should. You never know what can or will happen tomorrow.

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Facing Death

Both Anita and Marc have left us… and it’s just now starting to sink in. TheMacinjosh is one friend who responded to something I posted to YouTube the other day:

I just watched your video about your friends that recently passed away…and I can tell they obviously meant a lot to you, as they did to many others and I’m sorry to hear about the sad news. I have been thinking about how we all have to face death too, probably in another capacity though…and my thoughts have been brought on by anxiety issues I’ve had lately, but still…it’s been really bothering me. It’s just that I want to believe that our consciousness lives on somehow, but it’s really difficult to fathom what we even could experience after this life. I just hope I can find some sort of reassurance before my time comes, because to be honest I am scared, especially knowing that life is such a fragile thing and there really is no guarantee that we will all have each other the next day, or hour or whatever. I completely agree that we need to not take anyone for granted, whether we encounter people in real life or virtually.

This is the video he’s talking about:

I mentioned Marc and Gnomedex in my first post about his heart attack – and someone accused me of using the tradgedy as a way to plug the conference. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and I’ve read more than a few blogs about Marc’s passing which specifically reference meeting him at Gnomedex. Hey, that was the last time some of us saw him – myself included.

Leave it to Scoble to find one of my old Flickr photos – and this may very well be the only photo to ever have been taken with both Marc and Anita in it:

Seattle Geek Dinner

Take care, gang…

I Worked with James Kim

I don’t have a lot of time right now, and there’s not much more I can add to the conversations already happening. Suffice it to say, I’m extremely saddened to hear the news of James Kim’s passing. I was one of the few who had the EXTREMELY distinct pleasure to work with James at TechTV – and his “Lab Rats” segments were some of the best we did. I could always trust his advice, as he always seemed to know more than anybody else (in a day before Gizmodo and Engadget).

I’ve been scouring my archives to find a photo of us doing something together on Call for Help, but I can’t find one – and if anybody else has one, I’d certainly appreciate it.

What’s so ironic about this tragedy is that James, of all people, was the person most likely to have gadgets that could have saved him. I don’t mean that as a “shoulda, coulda, woulda” statement, mind you – just that I knew James was about as geeky as they came. If anything, I believe he’d want us to learn from his passing; Duncan posted a handful of fantastic tips, should you find yourself in a similar situation some day. Please read James and Kati’s Web site for all the latest official information, including where to send your donations.