The name Steve Jobs is synonymous with technology and inventions that cause the world to marvel. He was a visionary, often far ahead of his time, and many of us rely daily on the things he helped create. We rush out to buy Apple products, brag about what they can do, and stand in long lines to be among the first to try the next big thing.
Even as Jobs was dying, an invention he had much to do with was being unveiled to the general public. The very computer I am typing this column on is a Mac, my favorite of all the systems one can buy. For those who might not know, Jobs created the first of the home computers, or PCs as they are more often called these days.
We started with big, bulky computers often taking up much of a room or operating in a space that had been especially constructed to house the system with expertly designed heat and air conditioning to help keep the monster running smoothly. I worked for a very large international newspaper and I well remember doing fundraising campaigns to help pay the $36,000 for the construction of our new “computer room” housing an old and awkward IBM 36. Back in the day, that was the height of current technology. After the installation and training courses were complete, many of our employees found a way to sneak down to the new computer room just to take a look at the huge, often inefficient machine that would print our mailing labels, attach them, and help us get the paper out to our readers.
Jobs knew that these often bulky and time consuming processes could be done differently and with the partnerships he formed created Apple, one of the largest manufacturers in the world. Barbara Walters named Jobs the most influential person of 2011 after his death in October. In making the announcement, Walters said that her staff had broken their own cardinal rule. In the past, everyone that had been named among the famous people of the year had to be alive, but after Jobs died, the team had a meeting and decided to go forth with their choice already made months before. It was a great tribute to his life and work.
I don’t intend to dwell longer here on his life, but I do want to dwell on his death and what his sister recorded that he said. It has had a great impact on me, and I trust it will on you as well. Mona Simpson is a novelist and a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. Since 1988, she has held the Sadie Samuelson Levy Chair in Languages and Literature at Bard College. She delivered the remarkable eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs, on Oct. 16, 2011, at his memorial service at the Memorial Church of Stanford University.
According to Simpson, Jobs’ family was gathered around his bedside and they realized that the cancer was indeed winning and that he had only a short time left. “His breathing changed. It became severe, deliberate, purposeful,” she wrote. “I could feel him counting his steps again, pushing farther than before.” Simpson said that her brother told her in his goodbye that he was sorry, so sorry that they wouldn’t be able to be old together as they had always planned, but that he was going to a better place. Simpson said that her brother worked at death as he did in life. “He was climbing, pacing himself, working at breathing, but with a capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.”
Simpson wrote that just before he died, he looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner and wife, Laurene, and then rather over their shoulders past them. She said that Jobs’ final words were, “Oh wow! Oh wow! Oh wow!
Reading this, I immediately asked myself the question, “What could this man of rare vision, a planner, a dreamer, a doer, and a progressive thinker be seeing that would cause him to be able to only say “Oh, wow!”? No one can probably answer this question definitively, but I rather think he was seeing heaven. We are told that man does not have eyes to see what God has created for us, and just perhaps, Jobs was beginning to see the outreaches of that fair city. According to all who were present, he died peacefully and seemingly pleased at the direction he was going.
I join with so many others in saying, “Thank you for all you have given us and may God bless your memory and your family.”
Brenda Cannon Henley is an award-winning journalist and writer living on the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast. Having enjoyed more than four decades in ministry, Brenda shares her columns with our readers and works with churches and faith-based programs nationwide. She can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at
brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.