After Steve Jobs resigned as Apple’s CEO last week speculation about his failing health and imminent death was rampant. That same day, my family gathered around a hospital bed where my father-in-law lay tethered to machines, his body full of pharmaceuticals to dampen the discomfort of imminent death. The only speculation was whether it would come that night or the next day.
“…death is the destination we all share,” Jobs once professed in a celebrated Stanford commencement address. “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.”
In making way for the new it is perhaps not dying that frightens us most, but rather leaving behind the people we love. There’s a Native American saying that clarifies, “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” So while pundits pontificate Jobs’ legacy, and the future of Apple without his visionary hand at the helm, I’m willing to wager his own thoughts are on his family, not the iPhone5. I wish them all the best.
Whatever visions you pursue in life, the roads you take may ultimately lead to a moment where your loved ones are gathered around a hospital bed to say goodbye to you for the last time. At that moment none of your ideas and innovations, false starts, failed attempts, great comebacks and stunning successes will be important, all that will matter is that you’ve loved, and were loved in return.
Beyond our noble causes and high achievements the love we breathe into the world is our most important legacy. Everything else is temporary. Empires crumble, businesses fail, people die. Love endures. Passed from person to person, family to family, generation to generation.
That’s why love, not death, is the single best invention of life.
My father-in-law passed away last week, on my birthday. In so doing, reminding me of this simple truth was his gift to me. We’ll miss you Bob, and we’ll carry on the love.
“She said that the breath of God was his breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time.” ~ From “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy