Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Just a Thought: The Big Wow 
Janice Lane Palko 

As you probably already know, Steve Jobs, the founder of the Apple empire died on October 5. I knew who Jobs was, but unlike many others, I didn’t idolize the man. I appreciate what he achieved, and I love my iPhone, which I sometimes call my second brain as it carries so much information that I don’t have to remember. As much as I liked his technology, I didn’t give much thought to its developer on a day-to-day basis. However, with Job’s passing, it has been almost unavoidable not see and hear about the details of his life. With the release of his biography on October 24, entitled Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, even more details will most like will make news during the coming weeks. The book has already received rave reviews, and many describe Jobs as a “bundle of contradictions,” “strangely fascinating,” and “brilliant/flawed/brutal and creative.”

While that will probably compel me to read the book, there is something else about Jobs that intrigues me more. After his death, his sister, writer Mona Simpson, composed a beautiful eulogy for the brother she did not meet until she was 25. If you are not familiar with their story, Jobs was given up for adoption. His biological parents, Syrian student Abdulfattah Jandali and coed Joanne Schieble, were unmarried when he was conceived, and they gave Jobs up for adoption. Jandali and Schieble later married and had his sister, Mona. The New York Times published the eulogy on October 30, and if you missed it, you should read it in its entirety. In it, Simpson speaks of their relationship:  

Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother.

She concluded her eulogy with how Jobs died:  

Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it. He told me, when he was saying goodbye and telling me he was sorry, so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old together as we’d always planned, that he was going to a better place. Dr. Fischer gave him a 50/50 chance of making it through the night. He made it through the night, Laurene next to him on the bed sometimes jerked up when there was a longer pause between his breaths. She and I looked at each other, then he would heave a deep breath and begin again. This had to be done. Even now, he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic. His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude. He seemed to be climbing. But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later. Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times. Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve’s final words were: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.

Steve Jobs, who some have called the Edison of our age, who consistently dazzled the world with each technological advancement, who was a visionary, was wowed on his deathbed. There have been some reports by Isaacon that Jobs, who was a Buddhist began to seek God: "I remember sitting in his backyard in his garden one day and he started talking about God," recalled Isaacson. "He said, 'Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don't. I think it's 50-50 maybe. But ever since I've had cancer, I've been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. I kind of – maybe it's cause I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn't just all disappear. The wisdom you've accumulated. Somehow it lives on.'" Isaacson continued, "Then he paused for a second and he said, 'Yeah, but sometimes I think it's just like an on-off switch. Click and you're gone.' He paused again, and he said, 'And that's why I don't like putting on-off switches on Apple devices.'"

I don’t know the state of Jobs soul when he passed away or whether he ultimately came to believe in God, but I believe his final words offer us all great hope. Upon his transition from this life, his last words were not: OH NO. OH NO. OH NO. They were WOW--three times. The man who wowed the world was wowed at the time of his death.

When I read this, I immediately thought of the Bible verse from 1 Corinthians: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him."

Like Jobs, more than 2,000 years ago, shepherds gazed off into the distance and were wowed. As we celebrate this Christmas, my prayer for us is that we may once again be wowed by the wonderment of Christmas and again be greeted with THE BIG WOW at the end of our lives.

Published originally in the December 2011 issue of Northern Connection magazine.

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