Status Update: Your friend is dead (RIP Jeff)

My friend, Jeff Jacka, has passed. And I found this out today, through Facebook.

Jeff was one member of a four-man hit squad which composed the UI teams that worked on Cingular, AT&T and Fox News. Scott McDaniel, Jon Lee, Jeff and I were called in on projects where timelines were too short, workload was too great, and the prospect of completion seemed impossible. And somehow, the four of us always made the impossible happen.

Jon just happened to ask this morning if I knew whether or not Jeff was available for a project he was working on. Now, you'd think contacting a UI engineer would be a simple matter, given their ties to technology and the web. But Jeff... Jeff's not a standard UI guy. He wasn't even a standard guy. He was one of the freeest spirits I'd had the pleasure of meeting. He was the embodiment of "Zen and the Art Of Everything." As such, his contact information constantly changed, as did his current location. But Facebook being what it is, I knew that I could send a message to him there and it'd reach him. It had in the past... It would this time.

Only... It won't.

It was as if I'd done it a thousand times, and it'd just become routine. I searched his name, found his page, clicked "Send Jeff a Message" and typed out a simple one: "Hey, Jon's got a project you'd be perfect for. You working these days? Let me know."

As soon as the message box faded, I found out that he wasn't working these days... And that he won't be letting me know. Posted all over his wall were memorials to Jeff. It took me a minute to realize that's what they were... I rarely if ever read anyone else's wall posts when I send them messages, so I almost missed it. But when I saw the words "Jeff's passing", it gave me pause.

This really hit me hard. I think part of it was the way I found out - it just so happened that Jon asked about him, and it just so happened I figured Facebook would be the best way to find out about his status. Turns out, I was right. What a strange new world we're living in.

I didn't know Jeff as well as his close friends would have, but I knew him well enough to trade books with him every few months. I knew him well enough to know that you'd never pin Jeff Jacka down to one place or one thing. I knew him well enough to know that, regardless of what other interests were intriguing him in his life, he did damn fine work when asked to, and he would always get it done on time. It's the reason I brought him back on so many projects. He was fun. He had a GREAT sense of humor, and that's why we all worked together so well. The harder things got, the funnier we all got as a group, and Jeff's etheral, almost hippy-like brand of "It all works out" humor was a welcome contrast to the sarcasm and dark humor of the rest of the group. He was a bright light of an existence.

I only wish I could have told him how much I loved Snow Crash. Believe it or not, I hadn't read it until Jeff gave me a copy late last year. I know, I know... What nerd worth his salt hasn't read Snow Crash? Well, I'm worth my salt now, thanks to Jeff. And I was planning on having a long discussion with Jeff about it the next time we had lunch.

He will be missed.