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Death and the (Google) photo in your wallet

Last week, at 94 years, my grandmother Annette passed away. It was a peaceful passing, in her sleep, after only a brief illness. For that, I'm grateful. In her life, she was a mother and wife whose empathy and patience was bottomless; a generous friend and advocate for those around her; and a brilliant and award-winning chemistry teacher.

When I was 12 years old, she emigrated from South Africa to Canada to be closer to her family, all of whom had left the troubled nation years earlier. I was born there, and spent many of my formative days in her living room, playing with trains and building puzzles that she heaped on me with a fervor that only now I realize was borne out of a love for problem solving, logic, and a fierce desire to see my brow furrow as I neared a solution. I loved her very much.

In the years I was away at school, I maintained an email correspondence with my grandmother that I will always appreciate. Once she discovered that she could keep in touch with her friends and family in Australia, England, the U.S. and elsewhere without having to sit on the phone all day (although once she lost most of her vision the phone returned to its pre-AOL prominence in her life) she took to the computer, and Google, with a fervor typically reserved for early adopters. In writing, I told her about my classes and friends, my love of English and struggles with science education — chemistry in particular. In one conversation, she offered me a piece of advice that has shaped my life:

You don't have to be a scientist. You don't have to love studying science. But you do have to understand, and appreciate, the ways it makes your life possible.

While sitting in her living room as a child I pored over one particular volume of her wall-spanning encyclopedia: the periodic table. By the time I was six I knew every known element and its defining properties, and the myriad ways they cohered and combated. Under her tutelage, I venerated the universal stuff that comprises our selves, our things and the world at large, and I'd like to think that my chosen career, an unusual hybrid of language and science, had its origins in her sagacity.

I thought about this, and about her, as I snapped digital photos of her physical memories this week, storing them on a service that promises to archive and make searchable all of the pieces of my life and, by extension, a selection of hers. I can open Gmail and reference our myriad conversations (and I do, often) or Google Photos to peer at the woman who in so many ways shaped the arc of my life.

To me, though, this is less a story about how technology makes it easy to recall her than it is about how she, despite a steep learning curve, voraciously pursued its unifying social properties to continue being the curious, generous, wonderful woman she was until the moment she passed.

A few more notes from the week:

  • Sony's new Xperia XZ Premium is probably the company's best phone ever, but it's going to need to come down in price a bit before I'm jumping on board.
  • I'm really excited about the OnePlus 5. If you listen to this week's podcast, you'll hear my thoughts on why I think this is going to be a much bigger deal than just an upgraded OnePlus 3T with dual cameras.
  • Interesting seeing how, despite claims of sustained network upgrades and a raise to gigabit LTE, the U.S. is so far behind many eastern markets when it comes to wireless speeds.

Peace and love this week, folks.

-Daniel

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

51 Comments
  • Sorry for your loss. Very nice article.
  • Thank you
  • Sorry for your loss Daniel.
  • Thanks very much
  • Damn. I'm sorry for your loss Daniel.
  • Appreciate it.
  • I'm sorry to hear that she passed, but thank you for sharing this with us. This was a lovely thing to read.
  • Nice of you to say.
  • I am truly sorry for your loss Daniel. May you find comfort in the wonderful memories you shared with her.
  • Thanks man.
  • Sorry for your loss Daniel. I really enjoyed the read. Well done.
  • Thanks for reading.
  • I'm sorry you lost your grandma, Daniel. The OnePlus 5 is the first phone from OnePlus that I've ever been excited for. If it has IPXX rating, I'm sold.
  • Don't think it will, tbh.
  • Wishing you well and so sorry for your loss. This was a great read and I appreciate that you would share with us.
  • Appreciate your comment.
  • Condolences on your loss.
  • Thank you.
  • Positive energy from the deepest parts of my core are being sent from me to you and your family.
  • Thanks so much.
  • Sorry for your loss. On a different note... I just ordered a Google photos photo album book (a hard and soft cover edition) of all 4 of my kids, my wife and me to send their grandmother's. They love showing us off and it's not the same for them looking through social media to show their friends and family. I really hope it's cool and the pics look good (all taken with my pixel and pixel XL). Now to decide which grandmother gets the hard back copy or the softback. Of course my mom should get the hard cover, but we shall see 😀😂🤣
  • Thanks Dave.
  • Loosing a close family member is so damn hard. We're left to try and honor them by cultivating their best qualities in ourselves and not feel selfish for wanting more time. Annette sounds like she was pretty awesome Daniel. May you and your family find peace.
  • She was pretty awesome. Thank you!
  • Condolences, Daniel. Sounds like a very special lady. How much greater would our generations be if the kids were taught more about the periodic table, or about differential equations, or about the the concepts taught in the Bible, or about how fix a leaking pipe instead of being baby-sat by the tube. Love for someone else and giving is greater than loving ourselves and consuming.
  • She was very special. Thank you.
  • I'm sorry for your loss Daniel. Great article.
  • Thanks Kalvin!
  • What a wonderful tribute, you're beyond lucky to have known her this long.....
  • RIP Mrs Annette. Great article.
  • When my mother passed the first thing I did was grab her laptop and put all of her pictures on my external hard drive. When everything was squared away I uploaded all of her pictures to my Google Photos so that I will always have them. I love how Assistant in Photos will randomly pop up memories of my mom.
  • Sorry for your loss. I love your article. That's why taking pictures, and videos are so important today. We have something else physical to see the people we miss, and loved.
  • Rip
  • Sorry for your loss Daniel. And, thank you for sharing your words with us, she would be proud, but I sense that she was already proud of you. I especially like her words about understanding that science is part of all of our lives. With your permission, I would like to add them to my personal little journal of quotes that I have picked up here and there throughout my life.
  • What a beautiful and beautifuly written story. Sorry for your loss Daniel.
  • This is very strange but my grandmother in law passed 2 weeks ago at 94 at home peacefully in her sleep. Her name is Annie. My condolences.
  • My Condolences, Daniel. Your Grandmother was certainly a special woman.
  • I am glad you knew your grandmother well - and the both of you had admired and inspired each other through out the years. That is truly special and to be admired. Sorry for your loss.
  • Terrific article! And I'm sorry to hear such a great soul has passed.
  • I'm sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing your love of your grandmother with this lovely article.
  • I'm sorry for your loss Daniel. The way you tell the story of how much having her in your life touched you was beautiful to read. She sounds like she was a great human.
  • Sorry for you loss, Daniel.
  • I am really sorry for your loss, my condolences to out to you and your family. And thank you for sharing this story with us, sounds like your family was very fortunate to have such a woman in her.
  • Sorry for your loss. I really like that piece of advice she gave you. Thanks for sharing that.
  • Thank you for sharing. Her advice to you then, is so true even today. She sounded such an admirable woman. My condolences to you and your family.
  • Sorry for your loss. She lived a long life and had a peaceful ending, Much love
  • Daniel, so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing the warm and loving thoughts about your Grandmother. She for sure will be missed by many.
  • My condolences to you and your family. This was a moving tribute to a remarkable woman, who was a significant influence on your life. May your memories of her remain strong and warm you when needed. Photos have a magical way of strengthening these, and comforting the heart.
  • Sorry for your loss, but what a nice tribute to your Grandmother.
  • My condolences to you and your family, Daniel. This was a beautiful write-up.
  • What a heartfelt tribute to your grandmother. Thanks for sharing.