I am sure that by now,many of you have heard the sad news that a great visionary in the world of computer technology has passed away. His name was Steve Jobs. He was only 56 years old and died as a result of a seven year battle with pancreatic cancer.
In the process of reading articles on the internet over the past few hours, I have ran across several quotations of Mr. Jobs’ that people have posted to remember him. Many of them are thought provoking and make very valid points about life in general. There was one, however, that stuck with me more than all the others. I believe it offers insight as to what might be going on in the mind of someone who is literally staring death in the face. Mr. Jobs said the following:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make choices in life. Because almost everything-all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure-these things fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
This quote is part of the Stanford University commencement address that he made in 2005 not too long after he had received his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
Anyone who is familiar with pancreatic cancer knows it is a diagnosis that is considered terminal. It is a devastating disease that has taken the lives of well known celebrities as well as people I have known personally.
A few years ago, I watched in awe as a young Carnegie Mellon University professor by the name of Randy Pausch delivered a very courageous “Last Lecture” to his students and colleagues. He,too, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His poise and courage while knowing all the while what was about to take place, had me awestruck. I bought his book “The Last Lecture” hoping it would serve as a reminder to myself that life is precious and to make each moment count.
I have watched individuals far removed from the spotlight and national media fight their own personal battles with cancer as they knew that the end was nearing. Their stories of courage and integrity are no less wonderful than those we read or hear about in the national spotlight.
Why my fascination with the thoughts of those who are terminally ill? Steve Jobs to my knowledge was not a Christian, but to me it is profound to hear the actual thoughts of someone who is facing his impending death. I simply cannot fathom the huge shift that must take place in a person’s priorities when faced with such grave news. We can imagine how we might feel in that circumstance, but only someone who is really in that situation knows what it is like.
Steve Jobs summed up his feelings about his particular situation by saying, “Because almost everything: all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure. These things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
I am not sure exactly what Steve Jobs himself might have considered important, but I do know what a very wise man who was even wealthier than Mr. Jobs had to say about that topic. His name was King Solomon and he summed up the great “business” of life with these words, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
As a nurse, I have had the privilege of caring for many terminally ill patients in varying stages of their illnesses, such as the newly diagnosed or even those in the final stages before death. There are so many important lessons that those who are nearing the end of life’s journey have to leave behind for the living. Lessons that King Solomon shared with us in his collection of wisdom called Ecclesiastes.
Lesson 1: Not until we come to the understanding that we are all in the process of dying (Ecclesiastes 3:1)can we really begin to live. I’m not trying to be morbid, but plainly state a fact. Thanks to Adam and Eve(First Corinthians 15:21) from the time we are born, our body begins it’s journey of aging which will eventually lead to its death. Sometimes we, without realizing, live as though we think death only comes to other people. (James 4:14)
Lesson 2: Death comes to everyone regardless of who they are or how much money they have. Mr. Jobs was the 45th wealthiest man in the world, a billionaire. No doubt he had access to every medical advantage that was available but it wasn’t enough to help his earthly body defeat pancreatic cancer.
Lesson 3: Life is not all about our wants and desires. There is a far greater purpose for living and that is to serve God and try to lead others to Him. When we have that as THE priority at the top of the list, everything else will fall into place and life will much more satisfying and it is only then that we will be contented. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Lesson 4: If we are prepared, death is definitely not the end. It will be the beginning of something much greater…so great that our human minds can’t quite comprehend. If we have committed ourselves to doing what God has requested that we do to become His child (Acts 2:38), we have a far more wonderful life waiting for us that cannot be found here on this imperfect, disease stricken world!
A few years ago, country music artist Tim McGraw released a song about a man in his early forties who had been diagnosed with cancer. In the song he tells about how the man, faced with the possibility of death, suddenly comes to a realization of the things that were really important and makes many changes in his life for the better. The chorus concludes with the words, “And I hope someday you get the chance to live like you were dying.”
Kind of morbid I know, but the whole gist of the song was that the man didn’t really start living until he was faced with death. When he was forced to get his priorities in order, it was a more full life than the one he had originally had.
The phrase “live like you were dying” is actually used as a positive statement. It is a wish that the person hearing the song would enjoy a happy, full life without actually having to go through the same painful lesson that the man in the song had gone through.
How easy it is to get so caught up in the day to day details of living…I hope I never get so caught up in the rat race that I forget to live like I am dying!
Thanks for reading!