Death has never ceased to amaze me. In some ways so simple, in other ways so profound. One minute here, the next minute gone.
Somehow I missed the fact that Steve Jobs was sick and dying. So when I heard last night that he had died, I was shocked. How? No way! Wow.
Did I think that someone so incredibly creative and talented would outsmart death? Did I forget that he also is merely human? I am not sure. But I do know I was shocked.
I searched for information, searched for quotes. The speech he gave at Stanford a few years ago provides some incredible insight into his thinking about death. I have included an excerpt here.
His comments remind me of the many times that I have said, “I love our company name, “Life and Death Matters” because BOTH matter. Life is enriched by death, and death is only significant because life is rich in itself. So many thoughts… but for today, let’s just read what Steve has to say:
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.
This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
My love and thoughts to those who have experienced the loss of a friend, colleague, mentor, or who have a connection with Steve through his many inventions.
Quote retrieved October 6th, 2011 http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html?wpisrc=nl_wonk