Death surrounds us. Sometimes more than ever. Some deaths become more than a loss to the immediate family and friends. They spark debates and discussion, conspiracy theories and wingnuts.
When I was visiting my sister in Australia, the two Australians, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed in Bali for drug trafficking. My sister’s home was somewhat close to the Home Bush Boys’ school where both men went as boys. My sister and I passed the school more than once on our walks thus provoking further discussions about their decisions, opportunities, and the final judgment and execution. Predictably, there was a lot of local news coverage in Australia, candle-light vigils (or not), governmental threats and demostration of soverignty. Today’s news carried a heartbreaking letter by Mayuran’s mother to Indonesian President.
Both are said to have rehabilitated and reformed in the last ten years in prison. Myuran’s artistic talent and Chan’s spiritual growth are said to have had a positive influence on their own rehabilitation as well as on their prison inmates. Australian opinion on their execution is divided. Some are violently against the death penalty and advocated for mercy. Some believe that the two were accorded due process by the Indonesian justice system, and that is that. There is also an opinoin that the latter would change their tune if the two dead men were white and blonde. The comments on the op-ed pieces are illuminating as well. Someone wrote that the Indonesia gets all these earthquakes because they kill Christians and not Muslims. However, everyone sympathized with the families of the two convicts.
I returned home and within a few days, Sheryl Sandberg’s husband, Dave Goldberg died. I am ashamed to confess that when I first read the news that he died suddenly, I wondered if it was suicide. It appears that media has trained to me read ‘a sudden death’ as suicide or drug overdose. It reminded me of Carnatic singer Nithyashree’s husband who took his own life. The thought popped for a flash of a second and popped out. I am grateful that it did when I saw the furor on Penelope Trunk’s blog. She has written that Dan Goldberg’s death may be the result of Sheryl Sandberg Leaning In. She must be the most hated person on the internet right now.
Penelope has always been a loose cannon like her Blueprint for women’s lives ideas such as ‘get plastic surgery.’ But her occasional flashes of brilliance and raw honesty make it worth my while to browse her blog a couple of times a year or so. Her previous piece on Lean In did not come across as vitriolic. I have written elsewhere that people like Sheryl Sandberg and her co-author Adam Grant are not the norm for successful careers. It is like saying that everyone who played basketball with their neighbors are going to be NBA stars. They are the outliers. Even with all their advantages like supportive parents, supportive spouses, Ivy League education, and powerful mentors, not everyone is going to be in those rarified circles. Many women felt the same way about the Lean In approach; that it was not going to work for everyone. But Penelope took the ‘sudden death’ to ‘suicide’ to ‘Lean In’ bashing in one breath.
Sheryl Sandberg and her late husband may be public couple who some might think means they have given up a right to privacy due to their professional positions. But death is personal. But death is not just personal to the one who died. It is also personal to the living. Yes, we can blame the school system, racism, bad company, lazy parenting among other hundred others reasons for Sukumaran and Chan’s bad decisions. But to their families, despite the reasons and errors of judgment that triggered the end, the end is real. The grief is real. The loss is real. Sheryl Sandberg’s family may be buffered by material and other material resources, but when the family cuddles up together at the end of the day, they will miss the husband and father. Not all their money can replace the loss. A little kindness is always, always good. Here is an example,.
My deepest sympathies to Sherly Sandberg, her two children and her family. Here is someone who Leaned in as a single mother and built an exceptional career. And now the rest of us, let’s go hug our husbands, wives, partners, parents, siblings, and children. Be grateful. Be kind. And a little wiser.