Goodnight Steve Jobs: A Hero’s Goodbye
Josh called with the news, 15 minutes from home, while we were watching Harry Potter. “Keep him up,” he told me. “Wait for me to get there.”
We sat down in the Wolvog’s room; me in the rocking chair with the Wolvog on my lap, and Josh on the Wolvog’s bed holding Chickie. It was the wrong formation, the wrong order of things; they are usually in the other parent’s lap when we start tuck-in. There was this moment, a second before I told him that Steve Jobs had died, when he still didn’t know and he was in his Star Wars pyjamas, Harry Potter on his mind, reading homework tucked into his school binder, that I wanted to freeze indefinitely.
I have never had to kill someone’s hero.*
Because that was what it felt like to destroy whatever ideas my son had constructed in his mind about immortality. That yes, old people died, and people who stopped eating died, and people who ran into the street because they weren’t hold their mother’s hand died, and bad guys died. But being named someone’s hero; that protected you, infused you with the ability to live forever because you need to by necessity of the fact that you are someone’s hero. People need their heroes; we can’t have them die.
The Wolvog’s face crumpled and first he cried in this shattered sort of way, and finally he entered this place where he was very very quiet. His sister asked 1000 questions, trying to understand cancer, trying to understand what would happen next at Apple, suggesting different things her brother should do — or we should do — in order to process this. I finally motioned with my head for Josh to take her to her bedroom, and the Wolvog curled up against my chest, his hand over his eyes as if he was saying the Shema.
We rocked for a long time, so I had a good ten minutes to formulate what I wanted to say. And this is the gist of what I told him:
Bad guys die, and heroes such as Steve Jobs die, because both bad guys and heroes are simply humans who have touched our lives in an enormous way. It’s important to always remember that heroes are people; that they don’t have powers that the rest of us don’t have the chance to possess: they simply make choices that lead them in one direction or another. We all have the ability to become someone’s hero, and I fully suspect that one day, the Wolvog will be someone’s hero. And that while heroes themselves die because they are human, what continues to live on are their ideas, the actions they took while on earth, the people who remain alive who think about them and love them. That he will never be fully gone from this earth because there are tangible reminders of him in our very house with our iPad or our iPods. And the way we really honour our heroes is to emulate them; to grow up and similarly repeat (while putting our own flair on it) the good things they did. Following his computer bliss would be the best way to honour Steve Jobs’ life. Finally, I told him that the chicken he had eaten at Rosh Hashanah had been my grandmother’s recipe, and I had made it to feel close to her since I was having my parents over for dinner too. So while she is gone, we still are connected to her through her recipes — these cooking ideas that were so important to her while she was living — and we will still be connected to his hero via enjoying his ideas, his inventions.
And then I put the saddest boy in the world to bed.
I love everyone who took the time while we were talking to him to call our house or send an email or write a note on Twitter or Facebook. I’m going to gauge his mood in the morning and then read them to him when it feels like the right time. I asked him what I could do to help him with this, and he asked me to take him to the Apple store tomorrow — his holy space. And I told him that I thought it not only was a great idea, possibly more healing than a funeral, but it probably would have made Steve Jobs happy to know that we are going there and enjoying his inventions, keeping his ideas alive.
So that’s where you’ll find us until he’s ready to come home.