I spent much of yesterday mourning, remembering and celebrating the passing of a true renaissance man from our lives back into the Universe. On September 1, 2009, Jeffrey Walker – father, husband, son, musician, artist, creator, company builder, martini-drinker, guitar player, blogger, and all around crazy interesting soul – left us all behind for the next big adventure. Here is a great video of a performance he gave recently in between chemo treatments. I’ve been listening to it for a day now and it makes me smile, knowing that we have clips like this to remember him by.
I thought it seemed appropriate to write Jeffrey a good-bye note here. I couldn’t write it yesterday as I had too many things going on in my head so here it is:
Well, that damned cancer finally caught you. That’s rotten. I knew something was up when I saw MCB’s facebook posting a couple of days ago and then Jeff Clavier’s comment yesterday. Of course that led me to the lovely “Goodbye Jeffrey” post that your family posted on your blog which was really just perfect. I’ve never met Jessy, Brittany, or Mac but since they were your family, they must be cool. I’m sending them my hugs from afar.
Reading the comments over on that blog post made me think back to when I met you and the various interactions I have had with you over the past few years. I’m not sure if you remember but you and I first met in January 2007. I had just posted a blog post about wikis and you had responded, thoughtfully and with gratefulness for the positive comments and for the criticisms that would make your company better. I remember meeting you shortly thereafter at some industry event and as we both skimmed each other’s name tags and recognition registered on both of our faces, we both lit up as we remembered our recent exchange. I remember that moment so clearly. I remember thinking as we spoke, “this one is different.” You spoke passionately about Atlassian but also about music and blogging and building businesses and connecting people. I wasn’t meeting The President of Atlassian, I was meeting Jeffrey Walker, renaissance man, who played music, blogged, hacked, and was also the leader of a great little startup company.
I regret that we never got to spend a lot of time along the way although we would cross paths at the various enterprise 2.0 conferences and I would always feel like I was catching up with the old friend I never really made, if that makes any sense. I was always happy to see you anywhere we met up because you were just so darned friendly and authentic in the way you communicated and connected. I got to know you through your writing more than time spent together and then our paths diverged for a long while. When they reconnected, I learned about all of your trials with cancer and the impact that your writing had had on so many others. That prompted our final brief email discussion about this last round and how you were heading into it the same way you had the others, head held high, nice clothes on, new sunglasses on the head, and guitar in hand. And yes, that picture of you in the hospital in your cool new shirt and sunglasses does make you look bad-ass. I love it.
Then in a blink you were gone and we’re all now trying to figure out what that means and what to do with the hole you have left in so many different communities: your family, your Atlassian family, the greater Atlassian community, the Enterprise 2.0 community, the blogging community, the music community, and the entrepreneurial community. I know you will be missed in all of them.
Well, I for one am done with mourning and am moving on to celebrating and acting. You’ll be with me when I’m attending a conference and talking to my 200th (or 500th!) person and I remember that the most important thing I can do is be authentic and interested in them and in the world around us. I’ll also think of you when I continue to work on things I love with people whose company I enjoy, and I will think of you when I put that work down for the day to go spend time doing other things I love to do like my sports and playing outside, remembering that work and family and creativity and friends all need to be blended together, just like your life and your blog.
Jeffrey, we didn’t spend enough time together but I want you to know that you had an impact from afar and that I’ll miss you and not forget you. I expect that where ever you are, you’re getting to play on an even larger stage, hack the universe and not just computers, and continue to build community. With any luck you’re up on some stage, jamming with the greats.
Rock on brother.