When I want to know the answer to something, I turn to Google. Google is knowledge at your fingertips – full of useful and not-so-useful information. Whether it’s research for an article, catching up on current news, or poring over food ideas (read: killing time), I invariably ‘Google’ it.
I happily used Google to diagnose my first pregnancy, but I wasn’t prepared for the day it delivered devastating news about a close friend.
When I was in my early twenties I lived in Vancouver for a year. The city had a magnetism that seduced me – mountains, beaches, stunning landscapes and natural beauty every direction you looked. Plus, I was young, single and free; the perfect formula for adventure.
I first met John at a downtown nightclub shortly after I arrived. Captivated by my accent, he told me he had lived in Australia a few years prior and loved it. He was interested in who I was, why I was there and what I wanted out of life. He had a quick wit delivered with confidence and just the right amount of cheek. I liked him immediately. He asked me for my phone number that night and when I asked for his in return, he told me he didn’t have a phone. I later found out that he had given up his mobile phone so he could sponsor a child.
John was studying to be an actor, and was full of enthusiasm for life. When he wasn’t at acting classes he was learning a new language, dancing the Salsa or helping people. He was a philosopher, a deep thinker, and an all-round good guy with looks that promised an on-screen career. We formed a quick and natural connection and I felt certain I’d made a friend for life.
We kept in touch after I left Vancouver and emailed each other regularly for years. It was always the highlight of my day when I received his emails, which were often funny and a little flirtatious. He asked me to send him a couple of Australian exports: Tim Tams and Lynx deodorant. He was convinced it was Lynx that made the ladies wild for him in Australia.
As things happen, our emails gradually became less frequent but we held onto our connection. Then, one day my email to him bounced back. His account had been closed. I was surprised and confused. Perhaps he had a new email address, but why wouldn’t he have told me?
Unwilling to let our friendship go, I turned to Google to track him down. But with John as a first name and an equally common surname the volume of results was overwhelming. He was a helicopter pilot so I thought that would narrow down my search, but it was still difficult.
And then I came across a search result that made my heart stop. It appeared to be an obituary for a John from Vancouver, dead at 32. Paralysed I dared not click the link immediately. Surely this was not him. There would be a number of John’s that could have died. But even as I pleaded for it not to be true, I knew it was him.