I wasn’t going to write about this. When someone dies, it seems like everyone and their brother claims to have “known” them somehow.
But that’s the thing with death — the little things are amplified. The things you remember suddenly become very clear. You realize that there is a reason to live your life so it touches even those that knew you for but a day, an hour, a moment.
I worked at a now-defunct start-up company in 2008 called Culture11. David Kuo started the company with a vision that there was something bigger and better than just politics to write about. There were stories to tell about life and people and culture that could convey a message of principle and values aside from the legalistic, talking points of a Republican Party (for which he was famous for working within.)
A few weeks into my job at Culture11, I heard through the grapevine that David had a brain tumor — or had a brain tumor. I didn’t really know the status but he seemed healthy at the time. He didn’t talk about it much but sometimes made references to life that perhaps only a person who has faced death can.
Looking back, I remember a kind, playful spirit that recognized tomorrow is never promised. When David died last week, many recalled a message he left on his Facebook page this year — as he struggled through a recurring brain tumor:
“Do something outrageous today — give way more than reasonable to a homeless person, take the family out for an ice cream dinner. … And serve only ice cream, call someone you hurt and ask forgiveness, call someone who hurt you and give forgiveness … And send me a pic.”
Immediately, I remembered the afternoon in the office when David told us all the take a break and he took the staff out to ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s on King Street.
Another time, he said let’s skip the afternoon and go see a movie together! So we went to see the new James Bond (I think) at a nearby theater. Work could wait, life needed to be lived, even if it was the middle of the week. He often encouraged the staff to gather for a big lunch downstairs at the hibachi grill in our office building. Community, relationships, were important.
When Culture11 had to fold after only a year of existence, he was sad no doubt. He had put himself out there to create something believed in and it didn’t work out despite great writing and ideas. From what I saw, he was disappointed but not devastated. When you have a brain tumor, it puts things in perspective I suppose. Maybe we shouldn’t have gone to eat ice cream, or gone to the movies. Maybe this little company could have survived had things been done differently. Of course, in the end, it didn’t really matter.
But I’m guessing he was glad we went to get ice cream and went to the movies. It’s that whole thing about “time well-wasted isn’t wasted.” It’s that whole thing about what really matters in life when life starts to seem impossibly short.
I didn’t know David Kuo very well. He was a boss, an acquaintance, and I never saw him again (aside from Facebook and Twitter) in real life after the company closed. But you don’t have to know someone well to have been effected by them. You don’t have to know someone well to know inherently that they were good. He cared about the big questions in life and he cared about people. And I’m thankful he was one of those people I spent a little time with on my journey through life.