Jessica Brillhart
4 min readApr 13, 2016


In memory of Nick Kadner, 1983–2016. Nick bravely helmed WORLD TOUR and continued being involved with Google VR content efforts until his death.

Once Nick was lowered into his plot in Hillside Memorial, friends and family who attended were invited to shovel dirt onto his grave. The rabbi told us it was a great mitzvah to do this, although we certainly didn’t have to.

I hoisted Nick’s bag of computers he used to carry around with him on my back and approached the site. An older woman handed me the shovel. As I took it, I peeked over the edge at him.

First shovel.

Ōkunoshima in Japan is teaming with free-roaming rabbits, thus the name “Bunny Island.”

But when Nick and I get there, what is traditionally filled with very hungry, very excited little bunnies is now filled with over-fed, apathetic, lazy bunnies. Apparently there was a holiday. The bunnies, we’ve been told, are satiated.

We are not prepared for this. We only brought dried pellets, which wasn’t going to do us any good. We traveled eight hours to get there from Tokyo. I find myself in a bathroom stall, more exhausted than I have ever been, teary-eyed and pinging with our lead engineer, Sameer, for comfort.

I sit on a bench. A mildly interested bunny comes up to me. I swat it away. Nick puts down some of the gear and takes a seat, too. For a moment, we simply stare into space.

Suddenly, Nick bolts up and asks for the food bag. He walks over to an empty part of the lawn. He emits a strange noise — something like a “tuk tuk YEEEUP tuk” — and two bunnies approach dutifully, as if Nick is suddenly aware of some secret bunny code. Another bunny even went so far as to sniff the camera rig, which is the most action that rig has gotten all day. This is also the only time on that island Nick and I smile at each other.

On the boat ride back, as Bunny Island disappears into the distance, Nick puts an arm around me and sighs.

“That place was the worst. Let’s never go there again.”

I was not prepared for the sound of the dirt hitting Nick’s coffin. I stumble back a little, and I can feel his computer bag start to slip off my shoulder. Someone offers to take it. I tell them I’m fine and hoist it back up.

Second shovel.

There’s a fly in my hotel room the morning of the funeral. I am overwhelmed with the idea that it might be Nick reincarnated.

“Oh no, Nick, you’re kidding,” I tell the fly.

Suddenly the other 99.9% of my brain strikes.

A fly? Why would you think he deserved a fly?! He deserves so much better. He deserves some kind of majestic bird creature. Like a swan. Or an eagle. Or perhaps a great blue heron.

Wait, what?

Because he’s tall.

(I go with it.)

Or a gazelle. Because gazelles are cool. He would have been stoked to know that when he died he became a gazelle. But a fly? That would suck. Never think that again.

I agree with the 99.9% of my brain — which sounds oddly like Nick — but out of respect to the .1% of possibility, I leave the fly alone to do fly things. I even talk to it. Convince myself that we’re friends. At one point I believe that as I stare pensively out from the balcony at the Los Angeles horizon that the fly is gazing at it, too.

Nick would have laughed.

I try to stab the ground as hard as I can with the spade, but the dirt is compacted. What I was hoping to be a final heap ends up being a pathetic scoop.

At this point, so much of me feels like it’s drowning. The sound, the dirt, the combined weight of Nick’s laptops. Nick is down there. In that box. Why is he down there? Nick come back. I don’t want to shovel dirt on you anymore, please don’t make me shovel dirt on you anymore…

I feel a hand on my back. I don’t know whose it is or where it’s coming from. The weight of the dirt takes over. The handle rotates.

Third shovel.

The wave comes suddenly. The last thing I hear is Nick screaming.

“Watch out, watch out, WATCH OUT!”

I lie motionless. The water is cold. The glacier bruised my right shin. My brain does a quick evaluation of the rest of me, and I come to the conclusion that while I’m not hurt, I’m very tired, so I should just stay down for a little while.

Which is when I hear Nick snort. I open my eyes to see him bent over me, laughing hysterically. I feel the same start building in me and we both become insane people on a strange glacier beach in Iceland.

Nick looks down on me lovingly and offers me his hand. We catch our breath and gaze out over the ocean. I realize the rig is still recording.

“Nick, the rig. Should we go check on it?”

He seems lost in thought. “You know that was the last shot in the film, right?”

My head tilts.

“Remember? ‘Goddamnit, you’ve got to be kind.’ It’s perfect!”

Suddenly it clicks, and I’m right there with him. “Oh my god, you’re right. That’s the one. That was it.”

Rest in peace, Nick.




Jessica Brillhart

Researcher, writer, designer working in immersive media.