From Mona Simpson's Eulogy for her Brother, Steve Jobs . . .
Borrowed from the NYT opinion piece for October 30, "A Sister's Eulogy for Steve Jobs," Mona Simpson describes her brother, near the end:
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 . . . . His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude. He seemed to be climbing . . . . 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.In the Greek drama Agamemnon, by Aeschylus, we find the reminder, "Call no man happy till he is dead." I suppose Aeschylus meant that so long as one yet lives, Fate and Fortune can still wreak havoc. Steve Jobs, beyond their reach now, was a happy man. He died at the height of his powers, a successful man, wealthy, mourned by millions, and beloved by his family, who kept watch at his bedside to the end.
Many have remarked upon his enigmatic last words, the thrice repeated "Oh wow." Perhaps last words are always puzzling. Goethe is reported to have said, "More light." Did he see more light as death approached? Or did he need more light as the darkness gathered? Those being his last words, he never had opportunity to explain. We can't ask Steve Jobs now, but if we read his sister's eulogy closely, we notice that his final words were uttered the day before he passed on. I therefore don't think that we should assign them any particular metaphysical significance, as though he were catching glimpse of an afterlife as he passed through some liminal stage toward death.
Instead, I think that Steve Jobs simply found himself nearly wordless with love as he gazed long at the members of his family. Why then did he look over their shoulders past them all to utter those final words, as though he saw something beyond? As his sister noted, his death was an achievement, and I imagine that he was aware of his actions. He had given each family member full attention, and to gaze at any one of them in voicing his last words would be to confer upon that one individual a special gift unshared with the others. By his final intentional act, he conferred that last living gift upon them all.