Haunting Emails

Every so often I write about a topic that has nothing to do with healthcare, FDA or regulatory matters.  This is one of those times.

Many years ago while I was in law school, I met a man who became a close friend of mine. He is featured in the beginning of my memoir – A Fragile Circle – and Rodger was someone who over the years, became a very close friend, at times a mentor and much more.  My last book – Every Trick in the Book - was dedicated to him.  Two years ago he passed away.

And so the tale of Spring and re-birth.  Two weeks ago I awoke early in the morning and did something I am embarrassed to tell you I do nearly every morning – I reached for my i-Pad.  As I browsed through my emails about who had recently subscribed to me on Twitter, or who had commented on my Facebook status, my eyes stopped.  There, even through my morning haze, was an email that was clearly from Rodger.  I had to take time to concentrate and reconfirm reality in my head.

I looked again.  The email was still there.

I overcame the urge to open it, seeing on the email preview on my i-Pad that it only contained a link.  Obviously Rodger’s old email account had been hacked or his password acquired and was now being used to pass along malware, for all I knew.

Still, it was a bit eerie.  Just to see his name on my email queue.  It evoked many memories of nearly thirty years of friendship and echoes of many questions left unresolved after death, particularly one involving suicide.

Since then, I’ve gotten many emails from Rodger.  I’ve gotten quite accustomed to them. He is better about keeping in touch more now that he is dead than when he was alive. They come every few days, each time with a different link.  I haven’t pieced them together to see if Rodger is trying to tell me something, but the last one involved the subject matter of life-coaching, which could certainly be appropriate.  The others appear to be hawking something quite different to buy or a service to hire.  Rodger always had a knack of reinventing himself quite effectively, though not at this dizzying pace of every few days.

In fact, around the same time the emails began, there had been a highly publicized incident of a breach of security involving millions of email accounts.  It is not clear if this one is related or not.

A few years ago, TIME Magazine featured a piece called “What Happens to Your Facebook After You Die” that talked about Facebook’s policy to “memorialize” the deceased by removing the profile from search, but keeping the Wall open for remembrances.

I mention this for a few reasons.  First, we are so often presented with reminders of our own mortality, I thought it noteworthy that the Internet and social media present us with poignant and unique reminders of our own immortality.    Second, it is also a reminder that what we say and do on the Internet, this ether – this collection of tubes and wires – or however you want to think of it – has a permanence to it and that we should be more aware of that than perhaps we sometimes are.  And third, that breaches in security have many unforeseen effects – even bringing the dead back to life – if even only for a few moments.

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