Finding A Way To Say Goodbye.

BY { 20 comments }

Like many other geeks, I cried today.

It was the apple.com page that got me. I go there on a daily basis to drool over products, but today on the front page—in Apple’s typical minimalist style— they announced Steve Jobs’ end date: 2011. It was all that white space and emptiness around his picture that finally made me break down. I lost it.

In my years on earth, I’ve seen a lot of great people die, but I’ve never felt so deeply affected by the death of a stranger. It makes me reflective because my dad is battling cancer. And it also makes me sad because, when I heard the news of his passing, my fingertips were on Steve Jobs at the time … or a 15” titanium 2.5 GHz remnant of his genius brain.

I’ve been intimately involved with Steve for 16 years now. I’ve caressed him almost every day. I typed my first writing project on him, I made my first digital art creation on him, and for the last 10 years, I’ve made my income from his creations. Call me a massive geek, but his products have always made my heart skip a beat.

And now, Steve’s gone. But it isn’t a tragedy …

Death

I talk about death a lot on this blog, and I sometimes wonder if readers are tempted to call 1800-NUT-HOUSE and order me my very own squad of strong men in white lab coats.

I ran a series called Holy Sh*t I’m Going To Die, featuring frank stories of vivid near-death experiences. By publishing these stories, I didn’t wish to scare people, or put them off travel and adventure. (Be warned, your phone and your bed are far more dangerous than sharks!) I only wanted to gently remind readers that death is always there, in the corner, lingering, ready for you. Yes, you.

A reminder of your imminent death is, in my opinion, a gift. I’m scared of a lot of things, and if I let fear in, it quickly takes over and kills my adventurous spirit. With practice, I’ve learned to ask myself:

What’s the worst thing that can possibly happen?

I can die.

Well … that’s going to happen anyway, right?

Right.

So, once again, what’s the worst thing that can happen?

Nothing.

The Oak Tree

oak tree
There’s a huge oak tree near my house with enormous, muscular arms that reach up towards the sky, twisting and tangling in a mass of magnificent limbs. Every year, the lime green leaves turn deep olive, then brown and then, of course, they fall. A tiny gust of wind sends the fragile leaves to the ground forever.

As the chill of winter creeps into my bones, I wonder if the leaves will ever grow back. The tree is ugly without its costume of youth, and all seems wrong with the world. I want to take the leaves, paint them green, and tape them back on, one by one. This shouldn’t be, I tell myself. This is tragic. 

But from a carpet of dead leaves, the oak tree feeds. Its muscles grow and it’s limbs—still leafless—reach further towards the sky.

Then, every year when the weather first warms, bright green leaves begin to unfurl. And almost overnight, the tree is adorning a brand new outfit of spectacular leaves, which jive and boogie with the breeze.

Bye Steve

Steve Jobs has just fallen from the oak tree. All of us will eventually flutter down onto the same carpet of brown leaves—some sooner than others, but that’s okay. To feel sad about his loss is a good thing: it means he was loved. But it’s not a tragedy.

It’s never a tragedy.

Steve leaves behind his incredible artistry, and his legacy will offer continual nourishment for future generations. On Facebook and Twitter, a lot of people have been posting his nuggets of wisdom today. To me, that’s evidence that his rich nutrients are already soaking the earth.

“Remembering you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose” — Steve Jobs

Leave a Comment

  • Lisa Duran October 6, 2011 at 5:07 pm edit

    This does feel so much like the end of an era, doesn’t it? The only way to make it less sad is to realize that what he did and the ideas he set into motion will go on and on and on. If you haven’t ever seen Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, with its amazing illustrations of faith and optimism, now might be the perfect time http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KL

    Reply
    • Lisa Duran October 6, 2011 at 5:12 pm edit

      So sorry. That URL link should be http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc

      Reply
    • russell October 6, 2011 at 7:34 pm edit

      Yes, it does feel like the end of an era. I grew up watching the rise of personal computers and work with Macs everyday so it feels more like a relative died than just some stranger or usual CEO because I felt like Steve Jobs was much more involved than that (if that makes any sense).

      Yes, it does feel like the end of an era. I grew up watching the rise of personal computers and work with Macs everyday so it feels more like a relative died than just some stranger or usual CEO because I felt like Steve Jobs was much more involved than that (if that makes any sense).

      I think we should all strive to live a fulfilling life as Steve Jobs did.

      Reply
  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures October 6, 2011 at 8:07 pm edit

    This is so ridiculously beautiful and poignant and perfect.

    Reply
  • Chris October 7, 2011 at 2:32 am edit

    I’m relieved to read I wasn’t the only person personally affected by Steve Jobs’s passing. I’ve had an Apple product in my life for as long as I can remember.

    The very first computer I used was an Apple IIe when I was four years old. The first computer my family brought into our home was a Mac Colour Classic when I was 7 or 8.
    I wrote my first stories on an Apple and my first computer was a gifted LC 575 when I was 15.

    I completed Uni assignments on a garishly colored pink iMac and tapped out thousands of texts to friends, family, and girlfriends on my iPhone. My iPod kept me company through Korea, Japan, China, the United States, Fiji, and New Zealand.

    More than any material attachments, Steve Jobs was such an inspiration. He piloted Apple through countless lean years and has revolutionized the industry by pioneering the popularity of the mp3 player and the smart phone. He revolutionized the way we thought about electronics and he did it all with a kind of poise and humility that made you feel like you would love to chat with him.

    In my eyes Steve Jobs was the most influential mind of our time. He’ll be sorely missed.

    And now I’m misty eyed again…

    Reply
  • Roxanne October 7, 2011 at 10:42 am edit

    Torre, I loved this post! I especially like how you have tied rebirth and the oak tree to your reflections on death. Like you, I wrote about Steve Jobs’ loss because I was touched by his inspiring creativity and the pursuit of beauty in so many of us.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 10, 2011 at 11:21 pm edit

      Hi Roxanne. I just read your post. “Last week, the NYT published a much-criticized piece titled “You Love Your iPhone, Literally.” The article cited neuroimaging research that suggested the relationship between people and their iDevices resembled the chemical reactions of a brain in love.” — hmm, that could explain why I like to sleep alongside my laptop.

      Reply
  • Charley @Secret_Water October 7, 2011 at 11:54 am edit

    lovely words and the oak tree is a great symbol of life and death :)

    Reply
  • Davis October 7, 2011 at 11:44 pm edit

    The thing I most appreciated about Steve Jobs is that nobody seems to know what his politics were.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 10, 2011 at 11:34 pm edit

      People never know the politics behind anything, and when they do, they turn a blind eye. ‘Ohhh … shiny things!’

      Reply
      • Davis October 11, 2011 at 12:49 pm edit

        Torre,

        People like Steve Jobs come along so rarely that it can be decades before we start to notice that there aren’t any more of them coming along.

        Steve Jobs arose in a new and essentially unregulated industry. Can we imagine someone as innovative as he arising in pharmaceuticals or health care or any other established industry?

        Steve Jobs gave us shiny things — and by his competition forced his entire industry to produce shiny things — that we could buy for less and did more than what we had before. So many other shiny things we are required to buy these days cost more and don’t work as well as what we had before.

        You are right that people don’t realize the politics behind things and this is unfortunate, as one sort of politics allows those few, rare Steve Jobs who naturally appear in a population to rise and flourish by benefiting us all, and another sort of politics weights them down and binds them and subjects them to authority.

        I hope we do not look back fondly on Steve Jobs not only for the wonders he created, but also, wistfully, for his being the last of his kind.

        Reply
        • Torre DeRoche October 12, 2011 at 2:38 am edit

          You’re totally right. In fact, I cringe a little bit when people say that “Steve Jobs made the world a better place.” Did he change the world? Absolutely. Is the world a better place? I’m not sure about that. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that he is partially responsible for making anxiety very popular.

          But then, the same could be said for any great mind. Their influence is huge, but what are the repercussions? I don’t really believe in good / bad inventions. I think we’re too small and insignificant to fully understand the repercussions of our deeds.

          A lot of similar corrupt politics occur in medicine too.

          Reply
          • Davis October 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm edit

            I happen to suspect that the ability to remain in constant contact with home is a bad thing for the experience of travel, but I would never blame Steve Jobs or any of the other bright chaps who made that possible.

  • Kent @ No Vacation Required October 9, 2011 at 8:01 pm edit

    Thanks for this thoughtful post. The 3 questions you ask yourself are awesome.

    Reply
  • Davis October 15, 2011 at 4:12 pm edit

    a nice piece on the spiritual aspect of Steve Jobs is in the Oct. 8-9, 2011, Wall Street Journal:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203476804576615403028127550.html

    Reply