The “Like” Button Legacy


James Kang, 1969-2011

James Kang was my first Facebook friend—the first person to post something on my white, empty wall when I finally (reluctantly) joined Facebook on Thursday night. James and I worked together on the KCBS morning show for several years, and each time I walked in the security doors in the pre-dawn hours, exhausted and sometimes grumpy, James would greet me as if I was the most special person in the world. James always remembered my birthday–although I never remembered his. But that didn’t matter. James was a giving, not a receiving, kind of guy.

“Hi Suzanne. SO great to see you on Facebook!” James wrote a few minutes after I became a social networker. The photo that accompanied his note was taken at Dodger Stadium—one of the happiest places on earth for James. “Hope you and the family are doing well.”

Face Of A Dodger Fan

“James!” I wrote back, his friendly face on the page making me instantly feel less fearful of the unknown Facebook frontier. “Love to see you, if only in pictures!” But this happy reunion in cyberspace would be short lived. Less than twenty-four hours after our chat, the Facebook page of James Kang had become a memorial site, his wall one of collective grief when the forty-two year old died  in the CBS parking lot on Friday, May 27th.

It was sadly ironic that the reason I had finally decided to join Facebook was because of the loss of another friend. Tracey Firestone Greenberg died of breast cancer on Wednesday, May 25th, also at the age of forty-two (the musing about the incredible odds of losing two friends, two days apart, at the same age, are best saved for someone wiser, because all I can say is that it sucks). Tracey’s Facebook page had grown like a living thing—and I wanted to be part of the on-line celebration of this mother of three’s incredible, indomitable spirit. So, with the help of my friend Daisy, a Facebook veteran who was visiting us in Maine, I created my own Facebook page. When Daisy saw that James had “friended” me, she smiled.

James And Daisy

“He’s such a nice guy,” she said, being one of James’ co-worker at KCBS. “And you know one thing about him? He always “Likes” everything!”

Of course he did! I thought, as Daisy and I sat weeping together the next night, in shock at the unbelievable news that was spreading at warp speed on Facebook. Clicking the “Like” button was James’ way of spreading the love–his way of saying, “Whether you are posting about what you had for lunch or your boyfriend’s new haircut, I support you!” How much better would the world be, I thought, if each of Facebook’s 500 million users could find as many things to like in life as James did?

With his benevolent, uncomplicated personality and rare innocence, James seemed kind of like a guru. He led by example and simply did not do negativity, gossip, or guile (and in a newsroom, this is an extraordinary feat).  And while James looked much younger than his forty-two years, he showed the competence, caring, intelligence and wisdom of a much older, wiser soul.

Out In The Sunshine

When he died, James Kang had 386 friends on Facebook, people who are now using words like “kind”, “angel”, “loyal”, “genuine”, and happy” to describe him. In the wake of this sudden loss, I can’t help but believe that James leaves behind a “Like” button legacy from which we can all learn. Whether it was in his personal life, his workspace, or in cyber space, James knew that spreading sunshine is a lot more rewarding than darkness, something he practiced every day.  And my first Facebook friend never expected anything in return for his kindness. The world could use more people like him, not less.

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44 responses to “The “Like” Button Legacy

  1. What a touching tribute Rico. And what a great gift to those of us who didn’t know James, to be reminded of the type of people we should be on a daily basis.

  2. What an awesome and amazing tribute to a man who’s light will forever shine on those who knew him. Suzanne, you did an exemplary job of celebrating his memory. RIP James Kang.

  3. Kristen Aliotti

    I second the comments above. You wrote a beautiful tribute. And once again, true to form, you have written something gripping and meaningful — this time about the Facebook “Like” button, and your friend’s affinity for it – from a unique perspective. Yes, there are friends out there like that, and it’s shame to lose one. Rest in peace.

  4. Beautifully written…though I didn’t know him, you have forever changed my relationship with the “like” button…and I will think of it as a way of sending love and support to others. I am sorry for those whose lives are so deeply touched by the loss of this kind spirit. May he live on in all of you.

    • Hi Tambre– I am so new to that “Like” button, but I will never see it again without thinking about James. Glad you might think of him (or at least what he represented) when you go to hit it next time! Thanks for the note.
      Suzanne

    • Suzi, you know that I always share your posts, they are motivating and capable of bringing people to their knees. This one was no different, and I just want to share a comment that my cousin made about it with you…. “Thanks for sharing this Lizurd. It brought tears to my eyes. So true. BTW-I LIKE YOU!” Thank you Suzi.. for bringing out the best in a dear friend, and passing it along to all of us.

  5. Robert Hazleton

    I am sorry for the unwelcome coincident. Losses should come one at time. It takes time to absorb, reflect and honor the lost. The grieving will run at a pace of it’s own choosing but you have powered through a difficult time to honor these friends you love. You encompassed the humanity of both and introduced strangers to two people they now wish they knew. The comfort the balance of their friends and family will receive from your message may never be known. I can only offer the perspective of a stranger. You are a good friend.

    • Bob,
      Life is sometimes quite.. unpredictable. James’ death coming on the heels of Tracey’s made it all seem like one horrible, unfunny joke. But I guess really, it is just life. Thanks for making me feel a little bit better.
      Suzanne

  6. Catherine Snelgrove

    Beautfifully written and a wonderful tribute to your friend, James.

    • I don’t know if I can get used to anything but Riofrio, but I will try. Thank you for reading about James. He deserved to have everyone know what a great person he was. xoxo

  7. I “Like” this in honor of James.

  8. Carole Salazar Grisham

    I, too, am moved by your tribute to your friend James. Although I didn’t know him, the “Like” button will now be a reminder to maintain a positive attitude. You’re very fortunate that he smiled at you in his final hours; that is his lasting gift to you.

  9. Since I 1st accidently ran into your blog last month, Suzanne, I’ve always loved your blog writing & so I’m happy you wrote a tribute to a gentle friend of people I know. You & JK are role models.

    All I can add to previous comments is, JK “Liked” a whole bunch & in return the people he knew “Loved” him very much.

    • Your final line is priceless. I hope James is somewhere where he can feel how much of an impact he made on many people’s lives. Take care.

      • Thk You, Suzanne. Your thot makes me think, do we really think much about the impact our lives have on others? Something to think about…Mike

      • Yes, Mike, it is. I have made a few huge adjustments in the way I live over the last few years, trying to make my impact more positive. I guess one of the questions is–how do I want to be remembered? That so many people are saying so many lovely things about James is a testament to how HE lived his life. Best, Suzahhe

  10. Pingback: My friend, James Kang (1969-2011) | PaulSkolnick.com

  11. lizzwritesgood

    Suzanne,

    So well put. It’s impossible to remember James without a “like” button. And he really did make those morning shows fun. Such a wonderful guy…

    Lizz

  12. Suzanne, thank you for this.

  13. Yes. Yes. Like. Like. Like! What a wonderful legacy of joy he leaves to you and everyone who knew him. I aspire to leave loving, joyful energy in my wake. The mystery of death continues…but it’s clear that in some sense people we’ve lost are still alive. All we have to do is think about them, and we can FEEL them.

    • James certainly led by example in his life. It is hard to figure out the meaning in his death. But “liking” people more–and perhaps giving everyone more of a break–is now firmly on my agenda! xoxo

  14. Josh Rubenstein

    That was beautiful…I too owe most of my social networking to James. He always added me in his #FF, but more importantly he constantly reminded me there’s no reason not to give a smile each day.

    • Josh, you do a pretty darn good job of bringing a smile yourself. Or at least that is what I remember when you would cruise through the set just before the 11am. The alternative, which is to be grumpy and miserable, really sucks, and our man James knew that better than anyone. Love to your family. How’s Wrigley, btw? Marley is 15 and still trucking along.

  15. Pingback: KCBS/KCAL tech ops staffer James Kang found dead after leaving work - TVSpy

  16. Aww! What a wonderful tribute, Suzanne. So touching. I miss him dearly. The world is a darker place without him. I was lucky enough to be there for the picture of James and Daisy and take a few photos of the precious moment myself. That was such a fun day.

    • Oh Erin, my love, I am so sorry. I know how close you were. You have so many memories to hold onto though, and were so lucky to have him in your life. Take care, my dear.

  17. When I have nothing more to say because it’s been said, or because it is so big, I turn to poems, which often say something in a new way:
    THE DEAD
    Billy Collins
    The dead are always looking down on us, they say,
    while we are putting on our shoes or making sandwich,
    they are looking down through the glass-bottom boats of heaven
    as they row themselves slowly through eternity.

    They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
    and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
    drugged perhaps by the hum of a warm afternoon,
    they think we are looking back at them,

    which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
    and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.

    To have to write wo tributes in a week is a lot to bear. In each, the HUMAN being came to the fore. Thank you

  18. Suzanne, I am reading your blog (along with Paul Skolnick’s & Bryan Frank’s) on vacation down here in Antigua. I also got a #FF from @kanger33 Friday morning and heard about his death a few hours later. What a shocking loss. It makes me want to take a few B&W analog film shots in his honor.

    • Dave, I am so sorry. It is just so sad and shocking. Enjoy Antigua. Enjoy each day, in fact. Life is often too short not to. Thanks for checking in. It’s helpful to process it all in a community.
      Best,
      Suzanne

  19. I’m so sorry Suzanne. What a lovely tribute to your friend.

    • Thanks Donna–I have so many wonderful Donnas in my life–my mother in law, my best friend, my dad’s fiance (he died before they could get married), a woman who found my lost five year old on a ski mountain! I’m adding you to the list!

  20. Suzanne,

    The Red Harley and I just returned home from a weekend in Belfast. I checked your blog and find another very sad story, but such a great tribute to your friend.

  21. have some decency... please.

    i don’t think it’s appropriate to say that james passed away from a stroke when the autopsy report isn’t even out yet. more importantly, i don’t think it’s polite to write such info that’s not 100% accurate nor even shared with james’ family. you’re in the news biz, you should know that family of the deceased should be notified FIRST. if you know some insider news, i think you should share it with james’ family first. not with the cyber world.

    • Juliet, I apologize. I did not mean to post inaccurate information, and was not writing from a news perspective, but from the perspective of a friend who was shocked and saddened by the tragedy of James’ death. I should not have written any cause of death. In the spirit of who James was, I hope you will forgive me. I certainly did not mean to cause even one moment of extra grief.
      Best,
      Suzanne

  22. Pingback: Oprah And Me | Walking Papers Blog

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