Short goodbyes are brutal and shocking. One minute you make plans and the next minute there are no more plans. Most times, there are no goodbyes. Human existence is binary. You are here one minute and the next minute you are gone.
We project and make plans. We keep putting away from our minds the inevitability of something we must ALL without exception experience. We say “welcome” to newborns when we should actually be saying our “long goodbyes”.
I had always wondered if the afterlife and religion were mere creations of man as a coping mechanism to deal with the seeming futility of existence. We struggle, build, accumulate then we stop. We die.
Sometimes we slow down for a while before we stop, at other times, it just happens without warning. We can have statistical analyses and actuarial tables of life expectancy, we all end up as a statistical entry in the history of the World.
No single human no matter how “great” their achievements may be, is statistically significant compared to the sheer number of ALL that must go and will go. Every human, dead or alive is statistically insignificant compared to all that have gone before and will still go. We all collectively play our evolutionary role.
After I finally finished the biography of Steve Jobs, it hit me. While his life may have seemed short, he had one of the best ever “long goodbyes”. He came, he created, he conquered. He then took time to tell us all his own side of “HIS story”, so that his history will be accurately captured.
A lot of us in this generation may remember Steve Jobs the same way we remember the entertainment superstar Michael Jackson. However, our memories are going to be very different from the memories their family members have of them.
Steve Jobs was there for all of us, even though we didn’t ask him to. He designed great products we never knew we needed but eventually loved. He ran great companies like Apple and Pixar. He became an icon and “role model” to a lot of entrepreneurs at the price of long absences from his family.
At the end of Steve Jobs’ biography, he mentioned that he was doing his biography and talking to the author because of his children. He wanted them to understand him better and why he did what he did. Why he was always not there for them as he should have been and most importantly for them to have the right perspective of their father.
“I wanted my kids to know me,” Mr Isaacson recalled Mr Jobs saying, in a posthumous tribute the biographer wrote for Time magazine. “I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”
Memories with family are not created unilaterally. The very best of them come from shared experiences and sometimes very mundane activities. The guy who wrote the bestselling book — “Shit My Dad says”, made a lot of money from writing down his experiences when he moved back home after he lost his job. He observed his a Dad in the way he had never done before. He captured all those funny memories and made us all laugh.
I now wish that I had similar memoirs. Personally, I still remember a lot of “shit” my Dad used to say but I never recorded them in a book. They are stuff of inside jokes with my mum and my siblings. We lived apart for most of the time we were both alive. I only really lived with him for 10 years.
Most parents only have 10 years to spend with their kids but they don’t know it. Once they are off to secondary school, they are gone. My parents’ separation didn’t even help our case.
We observe our parents as children and learn. We get formed not just by what they say to us but largely by what we see them do. Their true character is what they are in front of the people who know them best and to whom there can be no sugar coating or larger than life exaggerations. The true character of our parents become the foundation of our life values.
Not everyone is fortunate to have parents with them for even 10 years. Some never even knew theirs. Others only have them for a very short time. Parents are not statistics to us. They are our physical source of life and in most cases our sole providers until we are able and willing to leave the nest. That nest is where we are formed and it is also where we begin to say our long goodbyes.
When we ourselves are blessed and fortunate to become parents, our children are our long goodbye’s to the world. They are our creation in biology and in character. They are the DNA we leave behind to fulfill our role to continue the existence of the species. They are our greatest achievement and also our valedictory statement.
There are Billions of people in the world who never became Steve Jobs but were great parents. My parents are more important to me than Steve ever was. I now treasure conversations I have had with them. I learned a lot in my formative years from them and would not be in business today without their encouragement, financial and moral support. If I had to choose between curing Steve Jobs of cancer and keeping my Dad alive in 2011, there would have been no contest.
These very important people (parents) are also the most easily ignored as we believe they will always be there for us until they are not. For those of us still fortunate to have one or both parents left, let’s not say our goodbyes only after they have stopped breathing.
I used to wonder why grandparents were especially fond of grandchildren, now I know. Grandchildren extend the length and magnify the impact of their farewell to the world.
We are all here for a short while, let us make it a great experience for us all. Nothing else matters.
May your goodbyes be long………
Steve Jobs’ last moments as written by his biographer:
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: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.
I never knew what my father’s final words were. He was alone in a hospital bed where he died. He would have been 74 today.
Michael Nosa Asemota
(2nd March 1942–25th May 2011)