Mercy for the bereaved

I didn’t know Dave Goldberg, but I can’t count all the friends and relatives who were close to him. By all their accounts, he was a brilliant and wonderful guy, much loved and respected by everybody who knew and worked with him.

Along with the rest of the world, I await word on what happened. So far that word hasn’t come. But it hasn’t stopped speculation. For example, this post by Penelope Trunk, which imagines a worst-possible scenario — or a set of them — on the basis of no evidence other than knowing nothing. And why do we know nothing? Put yourself in Dave’s wife’s shoes for a minute.

You’re a woman on vacation with your husband, to a place where nobody knows you. Then your husband, healthy and just 47 years old, dies suddenly for no apparent reason. What do you do, besides freak out? First you deal with the local authorities, which is rarely fun in the best of circumstances, and beyond awful in the worst. Then you give your family and friends the worst news they have ever heard. And you still don’t know why he died. What do you tell the world? In a word: nothing, until you know for sure. And even then it won’t be easy, because you want to retain a few shreds of privacy around the worst thing that ever happened to you — while doubled over with the pain of knowing that you and your kids now have holes in their hearts that will never go away.

Yes, I am taking some liberties with what I don’t know there, but all those liberties are in the direction of mercy toward the bereaved. While no good is done by speculating publicly about what happened, there is at least a small measure of good in cutting the bereaved all the slack we can. For more on that, some Shakespeare:

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
(from The Merchant of Venice)

[Later…] @AdamLashinsky in @Fortune reports that Dave died while exercising. More from the New York Times. Calls to mind Douglas Adams, also beloved by many. He died at just 50, also after exercising. [Still later, same day…] More again from the Times. Leaning what happened makes it all even sadder.


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  1. Hanan Cohen’s avatar

    The headline of the Fortune piece is “How Dave Goldberg died”.

    Another fucking linkbait.

    They can’t get over themselves, can’t they?

  2. Casey’s avatar

    You are doing the same thing; making assumptions and spinning stories to fill in the gaps. For example, you are assuming she was with her husband on vacation, but this is doubtful and has not been clearly stated. Which explains why he was not missed for (at least) three hours.

    Your argument would hold water if we all were treated with the same consideration for our privacy. Especially by Facebook…..

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Casey, my point with that story was to encourage empathy for the bereaved. Not to get the story right. I have concerns with Facebook’s approach to privacy, and have written plenty about that. Those concerns are irrelevant here. This post was about mercy. Simple as that.

  4. Leng Yein’s avatar

    RIP dave so young to go at 47 years old, we will miss you always!

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