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Life's Change Agent
Mom with a View

Life's Change Agent

Death is very likely the single best invention of Life.


Steve Job's commencement address at Stanford last June has certainly made the rounds by now. That doesn't make it less timely or less valuable. Unlike the pompous proclamations of many speakers, Mr. Job's words seem real, heartfelt and wise.

He told three personal stories, all of them cautionary tales. The last one seems most relevant at this time of year:

"About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months..."

"I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy... I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery...."

"No one wants to die...And yet death is the destination we all share. 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."

We all need to get our spiritual lives in order. We all want to "repent the day before we die." We don't want to leave behind resentments, regrets, fractured relationships. Many of us understand this intellectually.

But understanding and practice can be miles apart. We'd like to live with this recognition before we're forced to do so. We'd like to grow and change on a daily, even hourly basis. We'd like to repair our relationships and reap the rewards in this world, not wait until the last minute. We'd like to wake up today. But frequently we don't unless we're forced to.

Steve Jobs, by his own account, was forced to. Thank God, his story has a happy outcome -- in all respects.

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectation, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important...".

Like those listening Stanford graduates, we all have the world before us, and we can all make choices about how to live it.

Steve Jobs received a relatively mild wake-up call. He chose to learn and grow from it. And he chose to share his wisdom with us so that hopefully we won't need our own private message. teshuva every day and to live each moment to the fullest.

September 24, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 4

(3) Merlock13, October 21, 2005 12:00 AM

A Response---

A response to "Anonymous" ("Life and Death is Not that Simple")---yes, it is a lot harder to actually do the right things than just say you should, but that doesn't make them less right; only that you have to work harder to do them. I really don't mean to sound insensitive, but I have the philosophy that you should do the right thing, even if it's futile---I urge you to do all that you can (which may be more than you realize) to fix all problems, and all others as well. God bless!

(2) Jodi, September 26, 2005 12:00 AM

How to live without fear?

I lost my beloved Mother 6 years ago at the age of 57 to lung cancer.She was diagnosed and passed away 15 weeks later.We were told possibly 12-18 months.I feel that we lived a life together where we were extremely close.We talked every day and had coffee together almost every day.We spent holidays and many happy times together and she enjoyed 2 of my 4 children.In a way I know she knew I loved her and we said everything to each other and I knew all her stories.I still feel that there are things I wish I would have said but I thought I had more time plus no doctor actually came out and said she was terminal so I only wanted to give her encouragement and if I spoke of these things it would be like "the end." Anyway,I am blessed with 4 sons (now 15, 8, 5, and 2) and I've been happily married for 21 years to a wonderful man who is a mensch.We went through many years, lots of money and lots of heartache trying to have children (22 inseminations,3 in vitros, 3 miscarriages and

(1) Anonymous, September 25, 2005 12:00 AM

Life and Death is Not that Simple

This was too much of a simplification of the life and death issues. It is not simple to repair relationships, to redirect your life onto a path you may wish with all of your heart for many of us. For Mr. Job with all of his wealth and priviledge, it would be so easy to make changes that would feel absolutely marvelous, like working less and playing more, giving more money to charity, setting up foundations for worthy causes, smiling at the break of each new day. Do that when you are trapped in a job where you are mistreated everyday, but you need the medical coverage due to chronic ill health. Crave to mend relationships that have been severed by loved ones, for reasons unknown to you, only to be met with a wall of silence, and letters returned because there is no forwarding address. Write an article about someone who is isolated and impoverished who is grateful to discover that a fatal disease has a cure. This person can inspire me.

Orrin, April 13, 2015 2:42 PM

Almost Ten Years Later

I don't know if you'll ever see this, but I wanted to write anyway. I think I understand the pain of feeling lonely and poor. I agree that it looks easier for rich people to give money. I hope you're in a better place today (I don't mean dead, Gd forbid). Personally, I'm trying to set goals hour by hour. I won't receive and don't deserve public recognition for thanking someone or listening to somebody -- that's a lot more modest than paying for a new hospital wing. Still, it's what I can do. I try to put blinders on and pay attention to what I'm doing, instead of wishing I could do more. As for loneliness...I find that people generally like to be listened to, not talked to (the way I'm doing right now!) Over time, I hope, you will meet more people.

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