David Garrett, 1973 – 2007

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Editor’s Note: In April, the editors at Certification Magazine were shocked and saddened to learn David Garrett, our columnist and a frequent contributor, had died. He was 33. We asked Carmi Levy, a friend of David’s and fellow author, to write a tribute in place of David’s monthly column, Consultant’s Corner.

The only certainty in life is that someday it will end. Because no one is supposed to get out alive, you’d think people would be better able to accept the finality of death.

But some deaths hurt more than others. When someone dies before we assume folks are supposed to go, we feel as if something has been left on the table.

David Garrett’s passing at age 33 left a lot of things on the table. He wasn’t just a columnist for this magazine and a keen observer of that murky topical zone where technology and culture intersect. He was my friend. As a senior analyst for a technology research firm, I had lots of professional reasons to cross David’s path. He often called me to get my perspectives on articles he was writing. From our first conversation, it was obvious he liked what he heard because he kept calling me back.

After giving him the pithy quote that he needed to plug into an article, we’d often keep talking about technology and the fact that we both spent so much time explaining it to the masses. About family and the fact that technology made it easier to stay in touch with them, even when we were far away. About friendship and the powerful connections he made with people he would have otherwise never known.

Writers often use small groups of trusted friends to “blue sky” their future ideas, to refine what they’re going to work on and get a feel for whether an idea should see the light of day. It was during our regular after-interview chats that some of his — and my — best ideas for future writing were hatched and refined. It was always fascinating to speak with someone whose mind was always on, always searching for that next big thing to figure out with his pen.

As such, David wrote prolifically. A book he co-wrote, “Herding Chickens,” gave guidance to project managers in a voice not often heard in this typically staid discipline. His columns and articles were widely published in a range of tech media.

As with any other tech writer, David explained “the what.” Unlike most other tech writers, he dug deeper, explaining why all this mattered, and what it meant to the rest of us. While the rest of the tech press was focusing on outright performance of the latest widget, David was researching what happened when said widget made it into the real world and was used by mere mortals. Martha in accounting mattered more to him than Intel’s latest announcement.

I was privileged to meet him when we were in Florida a couple of years back. When we realized I was going to be vacationing near his home, we arranged to meet for lunch. He came to my in-laws’ house with gifts for my three children — stuffed animals they cherish to this day — and we spent hours chatting about whatever it is that writers chat about.

Ever since, we never spoke without him asking about my wife and children. After I published a column about our youngest son, he sent me a painstakingly created, framed, four-color treatment of the picture I had used to accompany it. He was empathetically kind in a way that most people these days are not.

David had moved back to Atlanta a few months before his death. His father was ill, and he needed to be there for him. This was typical of him — thinking of others before thinking of himself. He maintained a heavy writing schedule despite the obvious weight on his shoulders. The conversations never changed, though. He still wanted to know about everyone else’s life and hesitated to share the challenges of his own.

I was raised to believe the typical life should last about 70 or 80 years. Against that base line, David’s 33 years are significantly tragic. I think of the words he would have written and the lives he would have touched.

But as initial shock gives way to resignation, I realize his passing heralds a beginning of sorts. In his relatively brief life, David brought together a huge cross-section of professionals, writers, academics and technologists who have been grieving virtually via e-mail, blogs and instant messaging. He always had hoped his circle would somehow create something greater than the sum of the parts he worked so hard to piece together. He left a lot of things on the table. Something tells me the work is only just starting.

Carmi Levy is senior vice president of Strategic Consulting for AR Communications Inc., a Toronto-based marketing communications company specializing in strategic consulting and marketing services. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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