Steve Jobs' Sister Recalls the Apple Co-Founder's Final Words
Mona Simpson, Steve Jobs' sister, accomplished novelist and UCLA professor, gave a moving eulogy for the Apple co-founder at the memorial service held on Oct. 16 at the Memorial Church of Stanford University, which the New York Times posted in full.
"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," Simpson said.
At the time (1985, to be more exact), Simpson was living in New York, attempting to write her first novel and working at a small magazine. When an attorney called her notifying her that they had found her brother. Simpson and her colleagues bet that it was John Travolta. "I secretly hoped for a literary descendant of Henry James -- someone more talented than I, someone brilliant without even trying," she said.
The two "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," Simpson recalled.
Simpson said there were several things she learned from Jobs. "Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day. ... He was the opposite of absent-minded," she noted. "He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures."
She recalled the time he was first ousted from Apple. "He told me about a dinner at which 500 Silicon Valley leaders met the then-sitting president. Steve hadn't been invited," Simpson said. "He was hurt but he still went to work at Next. Every single day."
Simpson said that Jobs was "remarkably loyal" and that "he'd order 10 or 100" if he liked a shirt. She revealed his philosophy on aesthetics: “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”
She recalled Jobs' fascination with love: "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?" Simpson also recalled how Jobs was "a physical dad" with his children.
And though he saw success at an incredibly young age, Simpson said "he felt that had isolated him." She noted the normalcy he still craved after earning millions, picking her up from the airport in his jeans. Jobs' sister also reminisced about the time it took for the Jobs family to remodel the kitchen, which took half the time to finish at the Pixar building.
Simpson revealed that Jobs said that had he "grown up differently, he might have become a mathematician," studying paintings by Mark Rothko.
But Jobs' cancer quickly took a toll on his life. "Eventually, even ordinary pleasures, like a good peach, no longer appealed to him," Simpson recalled. She talked about when Jobs learned how to walk again after his liver transplant -- with a chair. Jobs went through 67 different nurses before finding the three who he stayed with until the end.
Still, Jobs continued to sketch ideas for other potential products. "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," Simpson said of Jobs' last day.
"This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it," Simpson said, recalling the Tuesday phone conversation she had with Jobs, during which he begged her to go to the Palo Alto hospital he was in. "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."
His entire family was by his bedside in his final hours of his life. The doctor had given Jobs "a 50/50 chance of making it through the nght," which he made through. Before Jobs spoke his last words, he "looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life's partner, Laurene, then over their shoulders past them."
What were Jobs' final words? "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow," Simpson recalled.