The Eulogy Given by Steve Jobs’ Sister…

(All I could say after reading this beautiful tribute was, “Wow…” When you get to the end, you’ll understand why … and most likely will have the same reaction…)

Op-Ed Contributor/New York Times
A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs
Published: October 30, 2011

“I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people.

Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother.

By then, I lived in New York, where I was trying to write my first novel. I had a job at a small magazine in an office the size of a closet, with three other aspiring writers. When one day a lawyer called me — me, the middle-class girl from California who hassled the boss to buy us health insurance — and said his client was rich and famous and was my long-lost brother, the young editors went wild. This was 1985 and we worked at a cutting-edge literary magazine, but I’d fallen into the plot of a Dickens novel and really, we all loved those best. The lawyer refused to tell me my brother’s name and my colleagues started a betting pool. The leading candidate: John Travolta. I secretly hoped for a literary descendant of Henry James — someone more talented than I, someone brilliant without even trying.

When I met Steve, he was a guy my age in jeans, Arab- or Jewish-looking and handsomer than Omar Sharif.

We took a long walk — something, it happened, that we both liked to do. I don’t remember much of what we said that first day, only that he felt like someone I’d pick to be a friend. He explained that he worked in computers.

I didn’t know much about computers. I still worked on a manual Olivetti typewriter.

I told Steve I’d recently considered my first purchase of a computer: something called the Cromemco.

Steve told me it was a good thing I’d waited. He said he was making something that was going to be insanely beautiful.

I want to tell you a few things I learned from Steve, during three distinct periods, over the 27 years I knew him. They’re not periods of years, but of states of being. His full life. His illness. His dying.

Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day.

That’s incredibly simple, but true.

He was the opposite of absent-minded.

He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures. If someone as smart as Steve wasn’t ashamed to admit trying, maybe I didn’t have to be.

When he got kicked out of Apple, things were painful. He told me about a dinner at which 500 Silicon Valley leaders met the then-sitting president. Steve hadn’t been invited.

He was hurt but he still went to work at Next. Every single day.

Novelty was not Steve’s highest value. Beauty was.

For an innovator, Steve was remarkably loyal. If he loved a shirt, he’d order 10 or 100 of them. In the Palo Alto house, there are probably enough black cotton turtlenecks for everyone in this church.

He didn’t favor trends or gimmicks. He liked people his own age.

His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”

Steve always aspired to make beautiful later.

He was willing to be misunderstood.

Uninvited to the ball, he drove the third or fourth iteration of his same black sports car to Next, where he and his team were quietly inventing the platform on which Tim Berners-Lee would write the program for the World Wide Web.

Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him.

Whenever he saw a man he thought a woman might find dashing, he called out, “Hey are you single? Do you wanna come to dinner with my sister?”

I remember when he phoned the day he met Laurene. “There’s this beautiful woman and she’s really smart and she has this dog and I’m going to marry her.”

When Reed was born, he began gushing and never stopped. He was a physical dad, with each of his children. He fretted over Lisa’s boyfriends and Erin’s travel and skirt lengths and Eve’s safety around the horses she adored.

None of us who attended Reed’s graduation party will ever forget the scene of Reed and Steve slow dancing.

His abiding love for Laurene sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere. In that most important way, Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic. I try to learn from that, still.

Steve had been successful at a young age, and he felt that had isolated him. Most of the choices he made from the time I knew him were designed to dissolve the walls around him. A middle-class boy from Los Altos, he fell in love with a middle-class girl from New Jersey. It was important to both of them to raise Lisa, Reed, Erin and Eve as grounded, normal children. Their house didn’t intimidate with art or polish; in fact, for many of the first years I knew Steve and Lo together, dinner was served on the grass, and sometimes consisted of just one vegetable. Lots of that one vegetable. But one. Broccoli. In season. Simply prepared. With just the right, recently snipped, herb.

Even as a young millionaire, Steve always picked me up at the airport. He’d be standing there in his jeans.

When a family member called him at work, his secretary Linetta answered, “Your dad’s in a meeting. Would you like me to interrupt him?”

When Reed insisted on dressing up as a witch every Halloween, Steve, Laurene, Erin and Eve all went wiccan.

They once embarked on a kitchen remodel; it took years. They cooked on a hotplate in the garage. The Pixar building, under construction during the same period, finished in half the time. And that was it for the Palo Alto house. The bathrooms stayed old. But — and this was a crucial distinction — it had been a great house to start with; Steve saw to that.

This is not to say that he didn’t enjoy his success: he enjoyed his success a lot, just minus a few zeros. He told me how much he loved going to the Palo Alto bike store and gleefully realizing he could afford to buy the best bike there.

And he did.

Steve was humble. Steve liked to keep learning.

Once, he told me if he’d grown up differently, he might have become a mathematician. He spoke reverently about colleges and loved walking around the Stanford campus. In the last year of his life, he studied a book of paintings by Mark Rothko, an artist he hadn’t known about before, thinking of what could inspire people on the walls of a future Apple campus.

Steve cultivated whimsy. What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?

He had surprises tucked in all his pockets. I’ll venture that Laurene will discover treats — songs he loved, a poem he cut out and put in a drawer — even after 20 years of an exceptionally close marriage. I spoke to him every other day or so, but when I opened The New York Times and saw a feature on the company’s patents, I was still surprised and delighted to see a sketch for a perfect staircase.

With his four children, with his wife, with all of us, Steve had a lot of fun.

He treasured happiness.

Then, Steve became ill and we watched his life compress into a smaller circle. Once, he’d loved walking through Paris. He’d discovered a small handmade soba shop in Kyoto. He downhill skied gracefully. He cross-country skied clumsily. No more.

Eventually, even ordinary pleasures, like a good peach, no longer appealed to him.

Yet, what amazed me, and what I learned from his illness, was how much was still left after so much had been taken away.

I remember my brother learning to walk again, with a chair. After his liver transplant, once a day he would get up on legs that seemed too thin to bear him, arms pitched to the chair back. He’d push that chair down the Memphis hospital corridor towards the nursing station and then he’d sit down on the chair, rest, turn around and walk back again. He counted his steps and, each day, pressed a little farther.

Laurene got down on her knees and looked into his eyes.

“You can do this, Steve,” she said. His eyes widened. His lips pressed into each other.

He tried. He always, always tried, and always with love at the core of that effort. He was an intensely emotional man.

I realized during that terrifying time that Steve was not enduring the pain for himself. He set destinations: his son Reed’s graduation from high school, his daughter Erin’s trip to Kyoto, the launching of a boat he was building on which he planned to take his family around the world and where he hoped he and Laurene would someday retire.

Even ill, his taste, his discrimination and his judgment held. He went through 67 nurses before finding kindred spirits and then he completely trusted the three who stayed with him to the end. Tracy. Arturo. Elham.

One time when Steve had contracted a tenacious pneumonia his doctor forbid everything — even ice. We were in a standard I.C.U. unit. Steve, who generally disliked cutting in line or dropping his own name, confessed that this once, he’d like to be treated a little specially.

I told him: Steve, this is special treatment.

He leaned over to me, and said: “I want it to be a little more special.”

Intubated, when he couldn’t talk, he asked for a notepad. He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit. And every time his wife walked into the room, I watched his smile remake itself on his face.

For the really big, big things, you have to trust me, he wrote on his sketchpad. He looked up. You have to.

By that, he meant that we should disobey the doctors and give him a piece of ice.

None of us knows for certain how long we’ll be here. On Steve’s better days, even in the last year, he embarked upon projects and elicited promises from his friends at Apple to finish them. Some boat builders in the Netherlands have a gorgeous stainless steel hull ready to be covered with the finishing wood. His three daughters remain unmarried, his two youngest still girls, and he’d wanted to walk them down the aisle as he’d walked me the day of my wedding.

We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.

I suppose it’s not quite accurate to call the death of someone who lived with cancer for years unexpected, but Steve’s death was unexpected for us.

What I learned from my brother’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died.

Tuesday morning, he called me to ask me to hurry up to Palo Alto. His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle, who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us.

He started his farewell and I stopped him. I said, “Wait. I’m coming. I’m in a taxi to the airport. I’ll be there.”

“I’m telling you now because I’m afraid you won’t make it on time, honey.”

When I arrived, he and his Laurene were joking together like partners who’d lived and worked together every day of their lives. He looked into his children’s eyes as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze.

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.

He told me, when he was saying goodbye and telling me he was sorry, so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old together as we’d always planned, that he was going to a better place.

Dr. Fischer gave him a 50/50 chance of making it through the night.

He made it through the night, Laurene next to him on the bed sometimes jerked up when there was a longer pause between his breaths. She and I looked at each other, then he would heave a deep breath and begin again.

This had to be done. Even now, he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic. His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude.

He seemed to be climbing.

But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.

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:


Mona Simpson is a novelist and a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. She delivered this eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs, on Oct. 16 at his memorial service at the Memorial Church of Stanford University.


October 30, 1938 — Orson Welles — “War of the Worlds” — Aliens

Today, it might seem a little silly that so many people believed this “news”… But we look at it all from our eyes, of course — from here in the 21st century, with all kinds of technology and quick information. But what if you were living in 1938, and way out in the middle of nowhere, and tuned in to this radio show right with the announcement of the aliens landing and destroying everything they came across… You might’ve fallen for it too… Grab a hot cup of cider, close your eyes, and listen… Just don’t let your imagination run too far away and scare ya on this night before Halloween. ; )

Not Rejected, Not Alone

Moon Over the Atlantic Ocean (photo by my nephew Michael Borgesi)

(I wrote this as a Facebook note yesterday, but wanted to also use it as a blog entry.)

Last Friday was the anniversary of when my Dad moved on to Heaven after battling lung cancer… I had forgotten the date again; the days rolled by, although I knew it was late October…

Just last night, a friend and I were talking about our dads… Her father is ill right now, battling cancer … preparing for his journey Home…

So today, I looked up the exact date. It struck me as interesting that last Friday was when I had my little meltdown of feeling completely rejected again and not worth much, and not this and not that, etc., etc., letting everything get to me.

Tonight, I reread one of my statuses from that day, out of curiosity; one status read that I was tired of the rejection and broken-heart times, and was ready to go solo again, to escape it basically, by choosing to be alone.

And now it all makes sense. Without realizing it, I knew that October date… Inside, I knew, and that feeling of abandonment was rearing its ugly head again in all kinds of ways. The abandonment through death… The abandonment of a parent, even though it wasn’t their choice…

I actually feel better now, knowing there was indeed a reason for feeling such deep despair. That kind of “down” only happens once in a blue moon, thank God.

Often, I refer to our Abba God as my Dad, as He is the Father of us all. But, truly, on that October day when I was 14, that’s how I started seeing God more and more. And He is such a good and loving Abba…

If anybody else out there has experienced the loss of an earthly father, or has experienced loss of any kind, where you’ve felt abandoned or rejected, or maybe your earthly dad wasn’t a loving person, there is One who is there and has always been right there, waiting to be recognized or noticed again… Waiting to be loved back, in return…

I don’t understand all His ways, but I trust His heart… He has been faithful, even when I haven’t…

We’re all so complicated, aren’t we? Different things affect us, and sometimes we don’t even know why. But He does, and there’s comfort and strength just in knowing that. No, I am not rejected. And I am worth everything to Him. And so are you. I just wanted to share this in case you’ve felt the same thing recently. And to remind you, like I had to remind myself, that feelings have a habit of lying, of clouding the truth.

The Truth is what He says about us. And, at the core of everything, that’s all that really should matter — what your Creator thinks and knows about you.

What’s even more incredibly wonderful is that He thinks good things about us, nothing to condemn or belittle us. Jesus even said that. You might think you’re not lovable enough (as I have felt), but your Abba says you are loved with an undying Love. You might think you’re not smart enough (again, hand raised…), but He says He gives you His wisdom. You might think you’re not attractive enough (yep…), but He says you’re His precious, beautiful diadem. Anything you can think of that you believe you’re “not,” He can and does refute it with His Word, in Scripture. So many diamonds in that Book to dig for…

Sometimes I’m very forgetful, and sometimes I let my feelings override the Truth, especially regarding heart matters… But I’m glad He always steps in to validate (dictionary definition: “To declare or make legally valid… To mark with an indication of official sanction… To establish the soundness of… To confirm…” Pretty neat, huh?) and reaffirm what’s He’s already spoken… Just like any good Dad would…

And that Truth cuts through the darkness of whatever our circumstances are. It might not always seem as bright as the sun… Sometimes it’s just enough though… Like the moon, shining brilliantly over an ocean of blackness, surrounded by a myriad of stars… Just enough light to make you focus on that alone … and breathe again … with hope renewed; with joy building back up, ever so slightly; with a better ability to hear your Abba echoing throughout the universe, just for you, for each one of us: “You are not rejected; you are not alone; I love you with an undying Love… now and forever … unconditionally, with all my heart… Here I am… Your Abba’s here…”

Just Another Ol’ Pumpkin in the Pumpkin Patch of Life

Lately, I’ve been feeling like just another pumpkin, nothing special, just another one of many sitting in the middle of wherever, not going anywhere, not noticed, not chosen, just blending in, just sitting, like one of all the others in the middle of a big ol’ pumpkin patch.

That’s how I feel. But, as I’ve said in another blog or two, feelings lie. They’re not dependable. Truth doesn’t depend on feelings.

And now I have to go back and reread those posts to remind myself. Better still, I need to go back and reread what God says about me — and you — in His Word, through Scripture.

He thinks each one of us is special. We’re so special that none of us has the same fingerprints. Even our eyes have a type of print and, like the rings on a tree stump, can indicate years, and trauma at an earlier age. And science just keeps revealing how incredibly designed all of creation is…

We have potential in us that could change the world around us for the better, through a kind word, a work of art, a political speech, an invention, a helping hand, a discovery, a generous donation, a billion types of acts of kindness. The domino effect.

That’s what’s in us. We’re imperfect human beings with a perfect God, and when we meet up with our Great Creator — this side of Heaven — anything good is possible. But getting from potential and what’s possible to reality, well… Some days it feels like a ton of concrete blocks, one hundred blocks thick in each direction — and no amount of praying, no amount of effort, no amount of action or declarations or even yelling and fighting back seems to help.

Seems to. I think “seems to” goes along with “feelings.” When negative feelings seem to envelope you like a thick, heavy coat, you don’t seem to have the energy to pray, to fight back, to do what’s necessary to be free from whatever’s toxic in your life. But maybe every single thing you do — prayer, action — wears away that heaviness like a stone is made smooth over time by water.

Or maybe it’s during those times that we just need to rest for a while, and let Him do the fighting for us. Maybe we can’t see what’s going on with our physical eyes. Maybe there’s a battle so fierce in the unseen world that God has us placed, for a certain amount of time, out of harm’s way — or, if we’re already harmed, away for healing. That might be the reason. Or a combination. Maybe, maybe not.

All I know is that God’s promises are all true. And, again, not because of what someone or some book told me, but because I know His heart — and we can all know His heart — and His heart is good. Pretty soon, in our own special season, we’ll each have our day of carving, which may be a bit painful, before we can really see all that He’s been up to in our lives. And maybe then we’ll have more laughter than we’ve ever known. That would be nice…

What seems like endless days of just time going on without us may in fact be the season He’s working the hardest on our behalf. I’d like to experience that fully carved stage, where I can look out with His light, and see His goodness in tangible ways.

I believe that day is coming… For you too… Pretty soon, we’ll all be glowing like little Jack o’lanterns.

So … maybe we should appreciate these days, each one of them, every kind, with whatever feelings come, and just breathe… Breathing in what’s true, releasing what isn’t… Active waiting. In the pumpkin patch of life…

Peanut Pumpkins

I saw my first peanut pumpkin today. On my walk, I ventured past a local church selling organic pumpkins, all kinds and all shapes and sizes, along with different kinds of gourds. Most were traditional orange, and a few were pale white.

But the ones that interested me the most were the peanut pumpkins. I remember seeing them in drawings from some children’s book a long time ago, but didn’t even know they really existed. Maybe that sounds ignorant to admit, but it’s true. I didn’t know peanut pumpkins existed. I found out they originally came from France and that what looks like peanuts to some, looks like warts to others.

You either see this type as either ugly or beautiful, I was told. I find them strikingly beautiful. I don’t think there are many things on this earth that are ugly. Ugly actions, ugly intentions, but not ugly on the outside. Once in a while you have to look closely, but the beauty is there. Kind of like Beast in “Beauty and the Beast.” His beauty was there all along; he just needed someone to see that part of him.

Kind of like peanut pumpkins…

So the next time you start to judge somebody or something based on the outside, look again. Use your heart along with your eyes. And you might just be wonderfully surprised by what you discover.

Soul Balm

I took this picture at dusk, a few hours ago. It’s the silhouette of a lone cherry tomato. All summer long, we had quite a few regular tomatoes, but no cherry tomatoes. Our cherry-tomato plant produced no fruit. Finally, one little green tomato formed. And it stayed green. It waited ’til October to turn red. Kind of odd, isn’t it?

But there it is. Being a tomato, out of season. No matter when we arrive on the scene, whatever scene that is, I hope we all stay true to who we are, no matter if there’s not another one like us around, and create striking silhouettes.

Not everyone “blooms” when they’re expected to. Some of us take a long time, for whatever reason. But there always is a reason. Because God doesn’t create anything out of season; He knows exactly what He’s doing. So if you’re still in the waiting/hoping/planning/developing stages, be encouraged. Your day is coming. You might make your debut like an out-of-season tomato, but how neat will that be! Pretty unique and special…

I suppose, though, it could be a little lonely showing up when all the other tomatoes are gone or almost all gone. And when the summer plants are fading and the leaves are dying and falling. But your beauty might be exactly what’s needed right now.

Maybe it’s the beauty of speaking a life-giving word to someone who needs reassurance that life will get better, or holding the hand of someone who’s dying here as they take God’s hand there. Or maybe it’s the gift of giving a rude person grace, knowing they might just be covering up some kind of deep wounds. It could even be “just” saying hello to someone as you push your cart in the grocery store.

An out-of-season gift that’s perfect in every season. Soul balm. Now go be like a beautiful sole cherry tomato in October.