Gone but not forgotten

It’s not the type of phone call you ever expect to receive. It comes at an irregular time and right away you can tell something isn’t quite right. There’s something about the sound on the other end that’s strange, but you can’t really point your finger on what it is until it hits you right smack in the face — WHAM! I got a call like this from my father on the winter morning of January 10th, 2014. He was calling to let me know that my older brother Joe — that foundation layer in my life, five and a half years my elder had fallen ill and passed away the day before.

The notion that my brother, who was almost never sick could no longer be with us did not register for me. It still doesn’t register. The events leading up to his passing did not make sense to me and I suppose they never will. He’d had a cold that did not go away after a couple weeks. He finally went to the doctor on what happened to be the coldest day of the decade, as a polar vortex descended down upon the entire northeast. The doctor couldn’t see anything terribly wrong but gave him a slip to get a chest x-ray in a couple days if things did not improve. On the slip he wrote, “check for pneumonia”.

My brother ambled back home, walking through the cold, arctic freeze. He passed away two days later in his home — from viral pneumonia. In the darkness of the tragedy, my parents and I have tossed and turned through the nights with the could’ve, would’ve and should haves going through our heads. If only he would’ve gone to the doctor sooner or if the deep freeze could’ve come days before or later or the doctor, our family doctor whom we’ve gone to all of our lives — he should’ve sent him straight to the hospital! Then there’s all the things we could’ve done to disrupt this terrible chain of events. But in the end, none of this matters as it changes nothing. Over time, I’m starting to realize that he is gone and he’s not coming back.

For Christmas that year, my gift to my brother was that I would help him build a website. I was thousands of miles away at the time and hoped this could be a way to spend time together building something productive. We talked about relaunching a site we’d worked on together in the past called Mail Of The Day. Ever since I was very young, my brother had always been ahead of the curve when it came to technology. He was the consummate early adopter — always in the know about the latest tech trends with a unique ability to explain technology to friends and family in a way they easily understood and appreciated. He was an avid consumer and curator of Internet memes, videos and stories. There was never a funny link or email thread you could send him that he hadn’t already seen. So with this in mind, we conspired to rebuild Mail Of The Day as a modern day, crowd sourced content aggregator that Joe would manage and editorialize.

Unfortunately we never got the chance to work on it together, but I’m proud to announce that today — on what would’ve been his 44th birthday, we are finally launching that revamped version at http://mailoftheday.ca. It’s a pretty basic site, with a simple concept — users can post their favourite, most recent links (videos / songs / blog posts / websites) and subscribe to a newsletter of what’s popular each day. I was able to put it together really easily and quickly using modern day web technology such as Meteor, Docker and MongoDB with lots of help from great projects like Telescope and Embedly. The product and technology are not unheard of, so what makes Mail Of The Day special will be the people who use it and how they engage and interact together. So what’s the best link you’ve seen today? Share it with the rest of us at http://mailoftheday.ca/. And please remember to go to the doctor right away if you’ve been feeling sick.

Happy Birthday Joe. I love you and miss you every day.