Why Steve Jobs Isn’t Important Now

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seven years ago I stood in a hospital room and looked down upon my father’s unconscious body. The strongest man I knew had been brought low by a heart attack and some sort of infection.

The docs had hooked him up to a ventilator. I stared at the machines and listened to the clicks, clacks, beeps and whistles. Watched and wondered what would happen if the power went out and the machines that kept dad alive suddenly turned off. Wondered if they had a generator and tried to figure out how it all worked.

It had been whirlwind trip back east. The call came in telling me to get on a plane or risk not seeing dad again. So I did. I bought a ticket. It wasn’t easy. I had to help my mom. I had to get there to help dad but I had responsibilities at home. Back home where I left a 3.5 year-old son behind with a pregnant wife

Spent six hours on a flight not knowing whether he would be dead or alive when the doors opened.  Breathed a sigh of relief when I saw him at the hospital. Spent a week there and then repeated the trip in reverse. It was a long haul, but dad made it and so did we.

It is a moment in time that changed me and my life.

Here We Go Again

Four hours ago I was transported back in time. I stood in the hospital room and listened to those beeps and whistles. Watched as the machine helped him breathe, kept him alive except this time it wasn’t my father. This time it was my brother-in-law. This time my little sister looked up at me through tear filled eyes and asked “what happens if he dies.”

No one expects to face these decisions in their thirties but sometimes it happens. I know because I have seen it happen to others and now it is happening to my family.

But the echoes of the past have stayed with me and I am a harder man than I was the last time. I look down at little sister and hug her. A soft rumble comes out of my mouth asking her to take it one day at a time. I tell her not to buy trouble but inside my head the questions pile up.

Most of them surround my five-year-old nephew and how to best take care of him now. He hasn’t seen his father in three days and knows that his mother is nervous. He snuck out of bed and found her crying. He wants to know what made mommy cry and when he can see daddy.

Steve Jobs

All around me I hear people moaning about the loss of Steve Jobs. Newspapers, television and radio stories talk about how he changed the world. They talk about him as a leader, an innovator and a visionary. He is lauded, praised and beatified but I am ambivalent about it.

I can’t disagree with calling him those things and not because I am listening to music via my iPod now. But I can’t say that I am sad. Maybe I should be. Maybe I should be upset that we won’t get to benefit from his drive and vision any more.

But I just can’t worry about that. Can’t get caught up in what could have been, not now. Not while my nephew is on the verge of losing his father and my sister worries about becoming a widow. Can’t do it while my kids try to understand why I keep getting telephone calls about their uncle. Can’t do it while I call my sister’s office and explain to the office manager why they are going to adjust their hours.

Can’t do it while I juggle chainsaws, bowling balls and flaming torches.

Priorities

My nephew is five and worried about his father. I understand that. I remember the shock of seeing my father in restraints, a tube in his throat and machines everywhere. The difference is that I was 35. So tomorrow I’ll grab my nephew again and Uncle Jack will do his best to distract him. Tomorrow I’ll make another trip to the hospital and sit with my sister. I’ll remind her to take a deep breath and take it one step at a time.

And somewhere in between it all I’ll help my daughter with homework and run with my son to soccer practice.

But right now I am lost in thought about it all. Right now I am thinking about the first time I saw those machines and how I tried to process it all by figuring out what each machine did and how they worked.

Live now, our hold on life is precarious.

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47 Comments

  1. Quintius M. Walker October 7, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    I totally feel your pain. Just when I finished typing that sentence, my wife is telling me about a friend of hers who just died like minutes ago; and she’s having this information transmitted to her via technology that Mr. Jobs had an instrumental hand in making possible. Back in December of 2010, the 23rd to be exact, I had to drop my father off at the Hospice House because he was dying with cancer and wouldn’t have been able to make the trip to Nebraska for Christmas with my wife and I. It would’ve been his first time seeing his youngest grandchild; and my first time seeing my youngest daughter who was now 8 years old at the time. Needless to say, halfway through Kansas I got the call from the Hospice House informing me that my father had passed away. That information was relayed to me via technology that Mr. Jobs had an instrumental hand in making possible. The irony of it all is this; I don’t know this for sure but I doubt that there was even a slim chance Mr. Jobs was thinking about any of us and what we were going through at the time that he was laying on his death bed battling cancer. Everybody is connected. Everybody in the universe is IMPORTANT. Peace.

    • Jack October 8, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      Hi Quintius,

      Very sorry for your loss. The technology that we have today has certainly helped to shrink the world and made it a much smaller place.

      In my home we often use the video chat to talk to grandparents and relatives who are out of town. My kids don’t understand how remarkable this is nor do they have a clue who Steve Jobs was and that is ok.

      What I want them to take out of this experience is to remember that life is precious and that family looks out for each other. If they do that I can relax and feel like I got the job done.

  2. New York Dad October 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Well said Jack and my heartfelt best wishes to your brother-in-law and his family. I think in the end we all (hopefully) do think about our own families and our own affairs. The outpouring of grief for well-regarded public figures who pass (especially precociously) often seems more of a projection than anything else. We feel the need to collectively mourn because it is a rare moment in which we put aside differences and focus (for however long that lasts). In no way, mind you, do I want to detract for the great esteem I hold for what Steve Jobs accomplished during his life. As you point out, though, isn’t it better to lead our own lives and worry about our own pastures (not that some altruism here or there hurts, but…). I am sure these days the following will be repeated many times by those who wish they were Steve Jobs. He said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Ironic, huh.

    • Jack October 8, 2011 at 7:51 pm

      Jobs really seems to have figured it out. To me it doesn’t matter why or how he did it. The question is are we smart enough to recognize the need to apply it in our own lives. Moments like this are when I remind myself to be mindful when those who are close to me are healthy and not when they are sick.

      Not always easy to do, but important.

  3. Gini Dietrich October 7, 2011 at 8:10 am

    You’ve had a lot of loss this year. Makes you wonder what kind of cruel joke God is playing on you. I hope you’ll keep us updated about your brother-in-law. I know I’m not the only one who wants to know how he’s doing.

    • Jack October 7, 2011 at 8:26 am

      Hi Gini,

      Beats me. Most of the time I try not to figure out why some things happen. I happen to be one of those people who can provide a laundry list of people who died “before their time.”

      The year I turned 40 three friends died. Two from cancer and one from an aneurysm. One of the finest people I knew and one of my best friends died 13 years ago. Yet good men like Castro and Kadaffi are still alive.

      For lack of a better term, “shit happens.” I just try to go along and live the best life I can.

      Anyway, I appreciate your good wishes and will keep everyone posted on his progress. There has been some improvement so we’ll continue to be optimistic until there is a reason not to be.

  4. Brian D. Meeks October 6, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Jack,

    I have said a prayer for your family. I’m not sure there is much else to say. I lost my grandfather a few months ago. He was 96 and when he was born, the life expectancy was 57. So I consider myself lucky to have gotten to enjoy my 44 years with him still around. I hope the writing helped some. I know that the evening my grandfather passed away, I wrote about him. It helped a little, but that was something.

    Brian

    • Jack October 6, 2011 at 11:07 pm

      Hi Brian,

      The writing helps tremendously. I am very sorry for your loss too. I was close with all of my grandparents.My last grandfather died this past August. He was 97 so I guess he was a contemporary of your grandfather as well.

      I think that you have a great attitude about it. We do the best we can with the time we have.

  5. Michelle Santagate October 6, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Something tells me Mrs. Jobs and their children were probably thinking the same thing as they watched Steve draw his last breath. No matter how long you get to prepare, you’re just never prepared. And in the end, I’m sure that no matter what he meant to the world, he meant something very different to them and what they are feeling has nothing to do with who he was a visionary or entrepreneur, but who he was as a father and companion. He was a human being and all his genius stemmed from that humanity. You don’t have to worry or think about someone like Steve Jobs, who you never knew, while something so difficult is happening to people you love. But I see an intimate loveliness in your story because of what it points out. The greatest gift, our most lasting imprint, is the one we make on each other’s hearts. Long after we’ve stopped talking about Steve Jobs, his wife and children will miss him. We’ll look at his artsy and iconic black and white photo on apple.com for the week they have it posted, and then forget it. She’ll look at her wedding photo probably everyday until she dies. You take care of your family and know that no amount of money or fame will ever be worth more then that. Not even to those who have the money and fame. Bless you and Keep well.

    • Jack October 6, 2011 at 11:03 pm

      Hello Michelle,

      I have a list of people that I wish I could or could have met. They are all people that did or do something that I admire. For example it would be fantastic to have met Mark Twain. There is a lot that I would like to ask him.
      But when you go through my list you find that many of them are parents whose children loved them because they were mom/dad. And like you point out that is entirely different and provides a different sort of loss.

      Thank you for your kind words, I appreciate them very much.

  6. Bill Dorman October 6, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Life is precious and situations like this are much more real when it’s family and especially when little ones are involved. This is what is important; right here, right now. Everything else is noise.

    Good luck with this; I was good seeing you today. I had a message about my Skype toolbar and when I clicked it, I think I closed it and could never get back on with you guys.

    I’ll see you around; take care.

    • Jack October 6, 2011 at 10:57 pm

      You are absolutely correct. Situations like this are reminders about what is important. I am just doing the best I can to stay focused on the critical things and to take care of my sister/nephew as best I can. It is what has to be done and I am happy to do it.

      No more wardrobe malfunctions- we expect to see you back at the next hangout. 😉

  7. Jeane October 6, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Wow…my heart goes out to you and your family. Such a sad thing to endure and I am a glad that you and your family all have one another to hold. My mother had an common operation go horribly wrong a few years ago and we thought we were losing her…I have never forgotten that devastation I felt when I thought my mom was going to leave me. I am saddened by Jobs death, for his family, for his young life…but the sadness is nothing compared to personal loss of loved ones.

    • Jack October 6, 2011 at 10:54 pm

      Hi Jeane. I very much appreciate your comment. The experience that I “gained” when we almost lost my father taught me a lot. It toughened me up and reminded me of the need to to live and love now.

      And you are right, it is very different when the person is a member of your family or close friend. It really brings it home.

  8. Rene Foran October 6, 2011 at 11:29 am

    My heart goes out to you and your family, Jack. Unlike Steve Jobs sad news there was no time to prepare yourselves for this turn of events. Hold on to each other.

  9. Meggs October 6, 2011 at 9:43 am

    As much as I would love to be able to offer some sort of comfort, I can only say I am so sorry for what your family is going through, and I hope there is some miracle in the works for you and yours. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones… especially your nephew.

  10. Stan Faryna October 6, 2011 at 8:36 am

    You’re doing amazing things. Respect!

  11. Sandi Amorim October 6, 2011 at 7:11 am

    What a beautiful, heartfelt post to read as I start my day. It startled me so that the filter of early morning irritation about the day’s chores fell away and I was left with, “How can I show people I love them today?”

    As always Jack, thank you.

    • Jack October 6, 2011 at 11:06 am

      Hey Sandi. I am often a grumpy old man- especially first thing in the morning. This is just one of those moments where I am working harder to see beyond my own cranky self and to remember that service to others is important.

      I think that anything you do to show others you love them is very cool.

  12. Michael Schechter October 6, 2011 at 7:11 am

    First, foremost and probably the only important thing I’ll say, my thoughts are with you and your family. Not that I have any good vibes, but any that may be hiding are heading your way.

    As for the Jobs thing. I agree, we put too much credence in our heros and not enough in our lives (and I certainly put credence in Jobs), but when I look at the world at the moment, I think we could use to be inspired by a guy who 1) has a vision and realized it and 2) was so firm in his vision that he took a company that was a month away from bankruptcy with a stock price of $10 and built it back beyond any imagined glory. It’s something we could use in our country right now.

    • Jack October 6, 2011 at 11:04 am

      Michael, I had good fun calling Jobs Voldemort and teasing people about drinking the Kool-Aid. But I can’t deny my own admiration for him or that I have found much about him inspiring. There are more than a few things to look at and emulate.

      I just ask that it not be done at the expense of our own lives/families. And sometimes I think people lose sight of those things.

      P,S, This comment was written with the iComment app by Apple. 😉

      • Michael Schechter October 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm

        No doubt there. Always good to have a little perspective.

        And seriously, can someone make that app? There SO needs to be a better way to deal with blog comments 🙂

        • Jack October 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm

          If I had the skills I would make it in a heartbeat. Around once a week I while away the moments trying to come up with an idea for an app that people need. Would love to sell 10 million copies for a buck a piece.

  13. Erin Feldman October 6, 2011 at 6:53 am

    What an amazing post. It reminded me of the reality and the earthiness of pain and sorrow. Thank you for writing it.

  14. Harleena Singh October 6, 2011 at 6:46 am

    Hi Jack,

    That is such a touching post that it brought tears to my eyes, as it is so very true. I can relate to it well having lost my mother a few years back, when things were very much the same. That changed a lot within me as well, such that any losses now hardly matter – and I have learnt to live each day to it’s fullest now, as we can never say about tomorrow. What is there is the NOW- the present, this very moment that needs to be lived.

    Hoping, praying, and wishing for your brother-in-law and his family. Keep the faith….

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Jack October 6, 2011 at 11:00 am

      Hi Harleena,

      Very sorry for your loss. You are absolutely correct about the need to live now. The present is here and while it is important to plan for the future- it shouldn’t be at the expense of today. We never know what can happen or when so we have to live now.

  15. Skoteinia October 6, 2011 at 6:37 am

    Difficult days. My thoughts are with you.

  16. Will October 6, 2011 at 6:31 am

    I hope a million people come here and reaffirm that your priorities are entirely in the right place. I have to admit that my first thought when I heard about Steve Jobs was that my mother died at the same age he did, and, while she didn’t invent the iPod, she was more amazing.

    I really feel for you and what you’ve expressed here. It’s tough when society seems to value the abstract more than the concrete. But it’s our actions and our focus day today that can make life great — and it sounds like you are pretty darned focused.

    So for whatever a stranger’s support means, I hope it helps to have it. Best wishes to you and your family.

    • Jack October 6, 2011 at 10:56 am

      Will, if you didn’t say that your mother was more amazing than Jobs I would feel badly. While I recognize that not everyone has a parent(s) who is/are amazing I hope that most people do. My parents are and I hope that one day my kids say that about me.

      Steve Jobs was important and he changed our lives. But sometimes we miss how much influence those that we live and love have upon is.

      I am grateful and appreciative for your kind words and wishes as well as everyone else. We may be strangers, but we do share much in common.

  17. Brankica October 6, 2011 at 6:26 am

    Jack, this made me cry so hard. I am praying for your brother in law to make it and for your nephew to have many, many more years with his daddy.

  18. Danny Brown October 6, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Incredibly moving and powerful, sir, and so true. Yes, the news about Steve Jobs is sad, as is anyone’s passing.

    But sometimes we forget where we should really be directing our emotions, because we get swept up in a tidal wave of what we should be thinking, and who we should be thinking about.

    Thanks for this human reminder, mate, and my best wishes to you and yours.

    • Jack October 6, 2011 at 10:47 am

      Hello Danny. Life has a way of reminding us of our priorities and where we should focus. We’re just doing what we need to do to get through this time.

      Thank you for your well wishes, I very much appreciate them.

  19. Jim Genet October 6, 2011 at 5:27 am

    Thank you for allowing us to look through a window into a room in your life filled with so many conflicting emotions. With my dad and older brother both battling cancer I have a similar room and it scares the hell out of me when it’s not making me stronger. Blessings to you and your sister’s family.
    Jim

    • Jack October 6, 2011 at 10:33 am

      Hi Jim. The best part about blogging are the connections we make with others. This opportunity to share our lives with each other and to recognize how much we have in common is precious.

      I wish you and your family a lot of strength too. And of course we wish you strength as well to help you help your dad/brother.

  20. Betsy Cross October 6, 2011 at 4:16 am

    Today everything came together for me in a way that you’re talking about. My husband goes in for surgery today, I don’t know if I’m making a difference, and on and on and on. When I found out about Steve Jobs I realized something.. here and then gone…
    So today I focus on what’s between me and God. That’s what matters to me. Because life goes on when we’re gone. But I want no regrets..I have to live the life I was meant to live and say the things I was meant to say.
    Much to say…. got to leave! 🙂

    • Jack October 6, 2011 at 10:32 am

      Hey Betsy,

      Best wishes to your husband a speedy recovery for his surgery. There is much to be said for working on living the life we want. The goal for me is to do my best to live my dreams and not dream my life.

      Look forward to seeing you again.

  21. Julie October 6, 2011 at 2:37 am

    Prayers for your sister’s family and an angel to be with her husband. I hope he pulls through and all ends well.

    Certainly reminds me of all of my own similar scary stories. I know you will be strong for all of them, but please don’t forget to breathe and take a moment for yourself.

    • Jack October 6, 2011 at 10:26 am

      Hi Julie,

      We appreciate your good wishes. We’re doing the best we can to do what needs to be done. My nephew doesn’t realize how good he is for his mom, but he is a huge help. He is a very funny and sweet boy.

      Thank you again, I appreciate it.

  22. Stephi October 6, 2011 at 12:29 am

    HUGE hugs! My prayers are with your family and I have to say you’re an awesome big brother to be there for your little sister and nephew at this time. May the healing process be gentle as it can be in such cases.

    I share your sentiment about Steve Jobs. Not really all that ‘sad’ about it – my heart goes out to his family, definitely – but it doesn’t sadden me, personally. Not in the way my dad’s bout with the same type of cancer did. He found out in mid-February 07. Told me about it around mid-March. By the end of March he was dead, at 44, of a heart attack. That saddened and infuriated me…emotions I still struggle with. The best I know to do is to continue to live my life as best I know how to ensure that he continues to stay proud of me. The sucky part about life is knowing death will come whether we welcome it or not.

    Again, my thoughts & prayers are with your family this evening.

    • Jack October 6, 2011 at 10:23 am

      Hi Stephi. Thank you for coming to visit. I am lucky to be a part of a close family. My siblings and I are all close and all look out for each other. It is how we were raised.

      I am very sorry for your loss, 44 is far too young- but 102 probably is as well. FWIW, I think that your desire to continue to live life well is the best way to go. Death will come sooner or later but we might as well do the best we can with the time we have. Especially since we don’t know how much time we have, could be a day, could decades.

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