First of all, let me say that I feel really bad for everyone who is losing Dave Goldberg in their life. I feel bad that he will not get to see his two kids grow up. His death is very sad. I have not had a spouse die or a parent die and I’m sure the experience is more awful than I could even imagine.
Still. I can’t help but wonder how he died. It is completely standard in journalism to report the cause of death when the announcement is made. After the initial, cursory announcement of death, major publications frequently run an obituary when a famous person dies, yet the Wall St. Journal and the New York Times ran formal obituaries and still mention nothing of the cause of death.
If there were suspicion of murder, there would be a police report.
If there were some sort of complicated condition that Dave kept a secret, the death announcement could follow a time-honored tradition of being vague and uninformative, like saying “heart condition” or “muscular complication” or even “degenerative disease”.
Let’s say he has a terrible disease, like the one in Still Alice, where he will die early and so will his children. And let’s say his children do not know and the family has chosen not to tell them. Fine. The announcement could use that same, vague language.
If the family does not want to talk about the cause of death, it seems that the most logical thing to do would be to announce some sort of vague cause that would stop people from asking questions. But surely the family knows there will be questions if they say nothing. Dave and Sheryl are the most vocal couple on the planet about how to have a dual-career marriage, and one half of that marriage is gone. Of course people will ask questions. The best way to stop the questions is to give a vague, boring cause of death.
So the only explanation I can see for being totally quiet on this topic is that he killed himself.
Why is this important? Why do I get to ask the personally invasive question about his death?
Because Sheryl Sandberg, who was married to him, is not only Facebook’s COO, but she is also the author of the book Lean In. That book tells women that they should have a career like Sheryl’s. And, most significantly for this post, that women should pick a spouse like Dave.
Sheryl has said over and over again that it is because of her spouse that she is able to Lean In (which, loosely translated, means work insanely long hours and have kids and have a great marriage).
I want to know, how can someone Lean In as a single parent? I wonder how someone will Lean In when there is no other parent to comfort a sad child.
Most people have something in their life that prevents them from leaning in. I don’t actually even think this is a gender thing. I coach hundreds of men whose earning power plateaus because they won’t relocate or they won’t work weekends, or they want to be home for spring break. It’s not that we are victims of life, it’s that at some point in most of our lives there comes a time when something else is more important than Leaning In.
I don’t have any evidence that it was a suicide. All I have is someone notable died and no one is saying how. And however Sheryl’s husband died is news, since she has been news for three years telling women their husband is instrumental into the process of Leaning In.
But really, I just want to know how Dave died. Because I think he killed himself. And if he did, this might tells us a lot about what happens when both people in marriage Lean In.
Update: A few hours after I published this post news outlets started reporting various other causes of death. Here is my response to those reports: Do we still have to lean in if Dave Goldberg is dead?