Posted on January 1, 2012My Uncle Steve died a few days before Christmas. To my deep regret, I couldn’t make the funeral (he died in Chicago and I was in D.C.), so I couldn’t say my farewells to him or give my condolences to my Aunt Jean or my cousins.
Uncle Steve had a bad ticker for years, but he had plenty of heart when it came to his will to live. He fought the good fight, put up with countless surgeries, gave up drinking and eating bad food, all because he wanted to spend more time on this earth, being with his wife, his kids, his grandchildren and his friends.
Steve, whose parents were right off the boat from Ireland (I am not sure if they actually came over on a boat or not, but that is what we all say about Irish immigrants), had a wry Irish sense of humor. When the Feeherys invaded his house for Christmas ( invade is not too strong a word), he kept that humor and stayed out of the way as his wife cooked the turkey and got the house ready for the masses.
I was thinking about Uncle Steve as I read a biography about another Steve, this one who whose last name was Jobs.
Uncle Steve and Steve Jobs both wanted to live, and went to extraordinary lengths to stay alive. But as is the fate of every human being that walks the planet, our time on this earth is limited. And so it went with the two Steves.
It has been widely reported that the last words uttered by Steve Jobs were “wow, wow, wow.” I can only wonder what those words really meant. And my hope is that I won’t know for a while (hopefully a long while).
But we can speculate.
I remember once when I went on one of those super water slides in the Bahamas. I think I said wow, wow, wow then too, as I flew through the tube, under the shark tank, plunging into a pool down below.
As I approached the top of the slide, I felt a great sense of dread. But once I started down, it was a lot of fun.
Maybe Steve Jobs was taking that same kind of wild ride that took him too a better place. Maybe that is why he said wow, wow, wow.
In any event, both of the Steves are in a different place than they were when they were alive. Perhaps they just died and that is the end of it. That is certainly what Christopher Hitchens would have you believe. Hitchens, for those of you who don’t know, was the provocative writer and essayists who boldly proclaimed that all of the God stuff is complete rubbish. Of course, shortly after his book calling all religions bogus came out, he came down with a particularly nasty form of cancer. You can draw your own conclusions.
I am not smart enough to know what happens to us after we die. My Uncle Bob, the family philosopher, always points out that the Catholic faith might be a bunch of superstitious mumbo-jumbo, but then again, eternity is a long time.
His point is the same as the French philosopher Blaise Pascal. Pascal was a brilliant mathematician and he added up the odds for having faith and not having faith. He concluded that the smartest bet was to bet on faith, because well, eternity is a long time.
So, I will leave it up to the theologians to give us answer to what happens to our souls when we expire, which will happen to all of us.
But I do think it is worth noting that nobody actually ever really dies and goes away. We all leave a mark on history (and those who are left behind temporarily) in one way or another. Uncle Steve made a mark on his family. He led a good life and he provided a great example to his kids and grandkids. Yes, his memory lives on, but more importantly, his example lives on with all he touched.
Steve Jobs left his mark with his family and with the products he produced, whether it be the MacBook (upon which I type this little post) or the iPad (upon which I will read this little post) or the myriad of other products that his company has turned out over the last decade.
Both Steves live on, even though their bodies stopped working.
Death is a fairly depressing topic, even though it happens every day and in every way. One trait that is shared by 99 percent of all truly great people is that they are dead (and other 1 percent will die sooner or later).
We mourn the dead, but we should spend less time mourning their deaths and more time celebrating their lives.