Steve Jobs’ Final Words

In yesterday’s New York Times there was an op-ed written in by author Mona Simpson. Mona is the sister of the late tech guru Steve Jobs. She wrote a beautiful eulogy of him, which you can find in its entirety here. But the ending of it was particularly beautiful. It’s an incredible story. I’m not going to take any kind of stab about what was going on inside of his brain or what he was seeing, but I think it’s a pretty phenomenal story. This is the last little bit of her eulogy. Enjoy.

We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.

I suppose it’s not quite accurate to call the death of someone who lived with cancer for years unexpected, but Steve’s death was unexpected for us.

What I learned from my brother’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died.

Tuesday morning, he called me to ask me to hurry up to Palo Alto. His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle, who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us.

He started his farewell and I stopped him. I said, “Wait. I’m coming. I’m in a taxi to the airport. I’ll be there.”

“I’m telling you now because I’m afraid you won’t make it on time, honey.”

When I arrived, he and his Laurene were joking together like partners who’d lived and worked together every day of their lives. He looked into his children’s eyes as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze.

Until about 2 in the afternoon, his wife could rouse him, to talk to his friends from Apple.

Then, after awhile, it was clear that he would no longer wake to us.

His breathing changed. It became severe, deliberate, purposeful. I could feel him counting his steps again, pushing farther than before.

This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. 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.

What are your impressions of this? What struck you? What will you take away from it?



  1. Jordan Smith says:

    I believe life and death plays such a terrifying role in peoples lifes, that it affects them and can break them down. Jobs wasn’t only an innovator of technology, but he was a pioneer of pursuing a different insight on the way we live, the way we see the world, and politics. It struck me how his sister referred him to achieving death, I don’t think anyone wants to achieve death. But again I think Steve saw it differently and accepted his illnesses’ power. He is a man who’s legacy will run on forever and inspire me to live better and see the bigger picture.

    • Hey, Jordan. Thanks for commenting. I think you’re right. Death can really terrify, and even traumatize, people who are close to you. I almost wonder if she has to talk about death as an achievement because it takes away the sting of the fact that he died. You know what I mean?

Please keep your comments positive. I reserve the right to delete rude or insulting comments. If your comment is critical, please make sure it is also constructive. Thank you.

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