The Death of Jobs
Posted by Jonathan
The world is bidding farewell to Steve Jobs this week. He was the founding father of the Apple brand and one of the most successful businessmen in the world today. Jobs will probably go down as the greatest creative mind of the last 20 years. The new technology he spearheaded in the last 14 years has literally changed the way that we live and relate to one another.
The death of Steve Jobs brings my own father’s death close to mind. It is a shock to the system when you lose someone who is that close to you. It’s as if a part of you that was full is now empty and you’re faced with the knowledge that you will never be able to fill it again. The things that you took for granted become the things that you miss most of all. In many ways the true pain of death is not the burden of the deceased. Instead it is the great burden of those who live on.
My immediate reaction to my father’s death was shock and grief. The pain in those first moments was acute. It felt like my soul was being tossed about in a washing machine, unable to find a grip in reality. Once I was able to get my bearings, to get my feet back on the ground, I began the process of identifying what had been lost. I mourned the fact that my father would never see me finish my degree or celebrate my career as it blossomed. It pained me greatly that he was not blessed with grandchildren before he died and that my future children would never get to experience him and learn from him.
At the same time though, I couldn’t help but to rejoice in the things that we had already experienced together. When my father died we had already entered a stage of our relationship where we were relating to each other as men rather than as a father and son. It was not something that we spoke about but it was revealed in interactions and conversations. It was as if some type of barrier had been crossed years before that allowed us to move to a different level. This is critical in my mind because it meant that I didn’t struggle greatly with the greatest pain of death, the pain of lost potential.
The pain of lost potential is the thing that drives an emotional icepick into my heart when I hear about the death of a baby or young person or parent. It is the knowledge that the deceased will not get to experience the fullness of life. It is also the knowledge of what you missed out on and can never get back. When my father died I never found myself dealing with the thought that there were critical lessons that I had missed or things that he needed to tell me that he didn’t have time to tell. Because of this, even though I was dealing with a great loss, it was not as bad as it could have been.
I think Jobs was aware of this in his final months. If the greatest pain when someone else dies is the pain of loss then the greatest pain for the person dying may very well be the pain of lost time. The knowledge that there were important things that you needed to do but didn’t get around to and then in an instant you realize that it’s too late.
I think this NY Times article reprinted on Yahoo speaks to that pain in Steve Jobs’ final months. This is why an intensely private person like Jobs agreed to help with a biography before dying. He said, “I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and understand what I did.” Just like so many others, when the end was in sight Jobs wanted more time. He knew that he wouldn’t get that time while he was alive, so he opened up his private life for all to see for the chance to extend his reach to his children after his passing.
Near the end Jobs was “tenderly apologetic” according to his sister. That sentiment is heartbreakingly beautiful. It is such a selfless sentiment from someone who’s yearning for privacy was easily mistaken for being selfish. In the end Jobs knew that he needed to focus on his legacy. His real legacy, not the iPhone 5 or the iPad 2, was the impact that he made on the lives of the people around him.
Death comes for everyone eventually. Sometimes it’s a surprise and sometimes it’s even a blessing. We like to avoid the topic whenever possible. It feels morbid to think about it. I encourage you to make that time and think about your death. What will your legacy be? Are you spending your time in a way that you will remember as being worthwhile when you’ve run out of time forever? Are you focusing enough time on the things that will define you when you are gone? Isn’t today a good time to make a few small changes that will pay off in the lives of those we care about? We aren’t all Steve Jobs. We won’t all have the chance to publish a biography to speak to our kids when we’re gone. Instead we have the chance to speak to them now but only if we’re willing to make it a priority and take it.