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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.

* To read the backstory about the Wolvog and Steve Jobs, it is here and here.

64 comments

1 knottedfingers { 10.05.11 at 9:36 pm }

Goodnight Steve Jobs indeed. 🙁

2 LJ { 10.05.11 at 9:40 pm }

One of my first thoughts on hearing this sad news was for Wolvog. May he dream big tonight, and continue his hero’s legacy.

3 It Is What It Is { 10.05.11 at 9:43 pm }

I was in my car, in the parking lot of a shoe store with my son taking an impromptu nap in his car seat when I heard the news. Your son was the first person I thought of. I thought of his broken heart at learning the news, the loss of this piece of innocence, that heroes never die.

Hoping he rests easy tonight and I am sorry for his loss and that of the world.

4 Lori Lavender Luz { 10.05.11 at 10:12 pm }

Like LJ, Wolvog entered my mind immediately when I heard the news.

“We all have the ability to become someone’s hero.” I love that you said this to him.

May he find solace going to the cathedral tomorrow.

Hugs.

5 Nancy { 10.05.11 at 10:14 pm }

Wolvog was the first person I thought of when I read on FB that Steve Jobs had died. I cried my own tears for the waste of it all and told my daughter and husband your story about him. So sorry for Wolvog, I will say a prayer for peace for him tonight.

6 Rachel { 10.05.11 at 10:22 pm }

It’s amazing that so many of us first thought of Wolvog upon hearing the news. I expect that this story will be one that he tell to a room full of people at the opening of his first company.

7 a { 10.05.11 at 10:24 pm }

First, once I got past the sadness that such an innovator was no longer with us, I was sad for your boy. Of course he would take it hard.

Second, thanks for writing this. Now I can steal it and read it to my daughter, because her grandfather is dying of cancer.

I hope that your trip to the Apple store gives you both some comfort.

8 Spicy Sister { 10.05.11 at 10:26 pm }

Wolvog came instantly to mind the minute I read the news. Thinking of him and his heartache tonight and once again so impressed by your grace and wisdom. Beautiful story, powerful lessons.

9 Rita Arens { 10.05.11 at 10:26 pm }

It’s good to have heroes.

10 Lynett Oliver { 10.05.11 at 10:27 pm }

Wow. I had never read your blog before this. Someone posted the link on Twitter amongst all the SJ stuff going on there right now. I’m so glad I clicked the link and stopped watching TV to click the links here & read the whole story of your wonderful son and his hero. Thank you so much for sharing your talent, your family and your stories with us. I crying but I feel better for having been here. I know Wolvog will get through this with a wonderful mom like you to guide him. Peace to all of you.

11 BigP's Heather { 10.05.11 at 10:28 pm }

My heart aches as much for him as for Mr. Job’s family.
I’m so sorry.

12 HereWeGoAJen { 10.05.11 at 10:34 pm }

I cried tonight when I thought of the Wolvog having to hear this news.

13 Kat { 10.05.11 at 10:40 pm }

I’ve read many things tonight about Steve Jobs, my sadness growing heavier with each post. But this…your story of your son and his grief (and the deeper meaning of your two links)…was what it took to help me find my tears.
My heart breaks a little more at the loss of a man who would take time to write an email & encourage the Wolvog, despite his own failing health. Or maybe it bought him a few more weeks. My heart aches for the Wolvog. But I feel pretty certain this kid is destined for greatness, which is maybe why he felt so comfortable swapping emails with his hero. Birds of a feather…. When I go to my own Apple store, I’ll be thinking of the Wolvog. Please tell him.

14 Tigger { 10.05.11 at 10:49 pm }

I am so sad for Wolvog. It’s hard to lose your hero, to realize that they are real people too and subject to the same laws of the universe that we are. I think you did a fabulous job of telling him, explaining to him the way things work and what we can do to honor those who are gone. If he’s up to it, please give him a hug for me.

15 Nikki { 10.05.11 at 10:49 pm }

I thought of you and Wolvog when I first heard this. You guys are in my thoughts and I’m glad he had you to comfort him during this time.

16 Pam { 10.05.11 at 11:16 pm }

Like others here, when I first heard the news, after my initial shock and sadness I thought of the Wolvog and how he would feel/react with this news. I hope that he grows up to emulate his hero, and maybe one day his imaginary company will become real, and do great things, just like Steve Jobs.

17 Pam/Wordgirl { 10.05.11 at 11:20 pm }

A beautiful post Mel.

Like most who’ve written here before me I thought of Wolvog too. A moment like that doesn’t get much bigger with our children — how lucky he is that you are so present in his life – so aware of his heart’s dreams.

XO

Pam

18 slowmamma { 10.05.11 at 11:26 pm }

I hope that in the coming days, as the Wolvog witnesses the scale of S. Jobs impact on the world and the tributes and praise pour in, he will get a sense that those who make a real contribution live on in their vision and legacy.

They are true heroes.

19 Kristin { 10.05.11 at 11:33 pm }

You and Wolvog were the first two people I thought of when the breaking news came on TV. I am so impressed with the way you handled this and your talk with Wolvog actually brought me to tears. Thinking of you and your boy who lost his hero.

20 Meghan { 10.05.11 at 11:39 pm }

All I could think about was him, and you for having to tell him.

And I love what you said about heros

21 Erica { 10.05.11 at 11:44 pm }

My first thought after reading the news, besides pure shock, was thinking of how hard this would be on the Wolvog. I’m very sorry for his loss, that his hero was taken too soon. I’m so glad that you and Josh are there helping him mourn – I think a visit to the Apple store sounds exactly right.

Love to you all.

22 Kathy { 10.05.11 at 11:45 pm }

“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.”

You are one of my heroes Mel and in my own way since I have met you, I have tried to emulate you (with my own flair of course).

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I am not the only one who thought of your son after hearing the news of Steve Jobs death, but I think it is pretty amazing that you and your son have that kind of impact on our community. It says a lot about both of your spirits and your character.

I found out that Steve Jobs died right before I left for a long meeting at church tonight, to prepare for a women’s retreat that I am helping to host next month. When I got home a little while ago I was exhausted and wanted to wind down, but also wanted to catch a bit of the coverage of Steve Job’s death and more importantly what people were writing about it.

I didn’t turn on the TV, I just scanned through my Facebook feed and clicked through a few links, including the one to the Apple homepage with their simple and beautiful tribute to Steve. Then I thought again of you and Wolvog and had a strong feeling that you would have written and posted about this event that surely was going to have a big impact on your family and your son.

So I clicked over and I read and I cried and I was moved and inspired. I am proud of you and Josh for how you handled the delivery of this news to Wolvog tonight. I appreciate how difficult it must have been for you to do and I think he is a blessed and lucky boy to have you both as his parenting guiding him through these pivotal moments in his life.

Thank you for sharing your family’s story of receiving the news of Steve Jobs’s death today. He was a truly incredible man and our world is a better place for having had his vision and legacy. May Steve rest in peace and may Wolvog also find peace and comfort in his memories of and interaction with his hero. xoxo

23 Mrs. Gamgee { 10.06.11 at 12:01 am }

Wolvog was on my mind and heart tonight when I heard the news. Much love sent his way as finds his way through this dark time. Hoping he finds peace, hope, and inspiration.

And much love and prayers for you and Josh as you help him. The thought of one day having to guide Ginny through a similar situation breaks my heart.

Your words about heroes are exceptional. Thank you for sharing.

24 farah { 10.06.11 at 12:08 am }

My condolences for such a strong lesson for Wolvog. I wish him a great night of sleep and many lifetimes of dreams and fulfillment

25 Esperanza { 10.06.11 at 12:14 am }

I thought about Wolvog the minute I heard about it. I hope he’s okay in the morning.

26 jjiraffe { 10.06.11 at 12:15 am }

Like everyone here, I thought immediately of Wolvog. I also used to work in Silicon Valley, and it’s hard to describe how deeply this news effects us out here. Jobs feels as much a part of the Bay Area as the Golden Gate Bridge or the Marin Headlands or fog to me. I guess if I’m honest, I didn’t consider him mortal. Not really.

But human heroes are not buildings, nor weather nor weathered rock.

It’s also nice to know that great men can also be good men. So I will never forget Steve Jobs’ kindness to your son.

27 Mary { 10.06.11 at 12:20 am }

Your little man is already my hero. The ability to care so deeply and think as creatively as the Wolvog clearly does is precious and rare, as evidenced by the grief of the world on learning that we’ve lost Steve Jobs. I’m proud to “know” your brave and brilliant son and look forward to the day that I can read to MY son about him, from your blog and from whatever passes for a newspaper by the time he’s making the headlines that he surely will.

28 Martha { 10.06.11 at 12:21 am }

Thanks for this…so, so wonderful.

29 Kimberly { 10.06.11 at 12:25 am }

Melissa, I started following your blog only a few short months ago once I started reaching out for support within the infertility community and came across your blog via many blogs directing me towards many of your posts. In that short time I have followed your posts and stories about your family.

Saying that, when I got home tonight my husband told me about Steve Jobs. My first thought was instantly about you and your post about Wolvog and his idol. My heart instantly went out to you, the job ahead for you and the pain that would inevitably come to Wolvog with this news. Wolvog you are in my heart and thoughts tonight while you deal with the pain that comes with the loss of a hero. Steve Jobs was an amazing man, I hope that his legacy helps you to become the amazing man that you are already well on your way to becoming. Death is hard for those left behind, but the greatest gift we can give the deceased is to celebrate their life. I think Wolvog has the right idea. 🙂

30 endoandbeyond { 10.06.11 at 2:26 am }

sad times indeed

31 Mijk { 10.06.11 at 2:33 am }

Woke up to the news this morning (europe here) and my first thought was of the Wolvog and you having to tell him. It got my husband all confused and then I told him about the e-mail….. he was so touched… and then Jobs death felt even more sad

32 brooke { 10.06.11 at 3:12 am }

Amen.

33 Cattiz J { 10.06.11 at 4:13 am }

This is a wonderful story. So sorry for the heartbreak for your son. A true hero indeed.

34 Kir { 10.06.11 at 4:52 am }

There is nothing I can add, in the car on the way home hearing this news I immediately thought of you and your amazing son.

The words you said to him are truly a gift to all of us. All my love to yor family.

Hugs my friend.

35 Vee { 10.06.11 at 4:55 am }

The Wolvog was the first person I thought of when I heard the news 🙁 Going to the Apple store is a wonderful idea. xx

36 serenity { 10.06.11 at 5:05 am }

First person I thought of when I heard the news was him. Hugs to him – I’m thinking about him.

xoxo

37 Delenn { 10.06.11 at 6:33 am }

You handled this in such a wonderful and loving manner. I am sorry that Wolvog has to learn about such harsh and evil things, but I am proud that he is learning about them through you.

38 Sandy DJ { 10.06.11 at 7:04 am }

You and your son, were my second thoughts after learning of Steve Jobs’ passing. The first being those of his family, friends and colleagues.
The profound lessons of Steve’s life will continue to reverberate by exactly what you are describing here…how incredibly interconnected we ALL are. This “new media” we are having this conversation “on” is a direct result of Steve’s vision. But even more important than having a vision, I believe that it will be a recognition and appreciation of his efforts and determination to create/make available the technology to the world that will be amongst his greatest legacies.

39 loribeth { 10.06.11 at 8:09 am }

As soon as I heard the news, I too thought of Wolvog. 🙁

Several of us at work are taking a class about leadership communications at the moment, & at our last session, we watched Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address & analyzed. We talked about his public image, & a lot of people were surprised to hear that, within Apple, he could be a bit of a dictator. And I thought, “Yeah, but he made one little boy awfully happy by taking the time to personally sign a letter.”

I think you broke the news to him as beautifully as anyone can under the circumstances. You are MY hero. : )

40 Lacie { 10.06.11 at 8:20 am }

HUGS to the Wolvog!

41 Beth { 10.06.11 at 8:58 am }

Like many others here, the Wolvog was one of the first people I thought of when I heard the news last night. I hope he keeps his hero alive in his own ways, and goes on to do amazing things with the inspiration he’s felt. Love and warmth to Wolvog, and to all of you.

42 Amy Lorenti { 10.06.11 at 9:08 am }

My prayers go out to his family and friends, and my tribute to Steve is at http://www.amylorenti.com/steve-jobs/.
Amy

43 Keiko { 10.06.11 at 9:28 am }

I immediately thought of Wolvog after I first had to tell my husband, an Apple devotee for life.

When I went to surf the web on my phone for a quick second last night, I saw the headline, about 15 minutes out. Shocked, I was surprised Larry didn’t get his push notification from AP Breaking News Alerts. And then we remembered he had left his iPhone in the car. It was weird – the one time he forgot his phone, it just happened to be some of the biggest news of someone he really cared about, even if in a hero sense.

We’re both still pretty sad about it all this morning. I hope the Wolvog is doing okay. Thinking of you and him this morning.

44 Mom101 { 10.06.11 at 9:38 am }

What an incredible example of just how he touched our lives, beyond our technology. Thank you for sharing this Melissa. Thinking of Wolvog.

45 SurlyMama { 10.06.11 at 9:53 am }

Wolvog was the first thing I thought of when I heard the news last night. Love your the thoughts you shared with him on heros. Will be thinking of Wolvog.

46 Orodemniades { 10.06.11 at 9:57 am }

Aww, my condolences to the Wolvog. It is indeed, so sad.

47 MeAndBaby { 10.06.11 at 10:08 am }

This post made me cry. I, too, thought of your little man when I heard the news. I hope he’s doing okay today. And you too.

48 Devon { 10.06.11 at 10:09 am }

I thought of your son last night as I heard the news. It’s so hard to process death as an adult so I cant imagine how it affects a child. Death is so hard to explain to a child. You did so wonderfully. I love your words to him.

49 KH99 { 10.06.11 at 10:17 am }

This was beautiful. I too thought about your son. My husband and I are kind of surprised at how sad we feel about his death. He did seem immortal. I hope going to the Apple store brings Wolvog a bit of comfort. I’m going to borrow your words when I need to explain death to my son. My grandmother-in-law is battling pancreatic cancer too, and Jobs’ passing again reminds me of the difference between raising cancer awareness via ribbons and coloring your hair vs actually donating and doing something.

50 Sarah { 10.06.11 at 10:26 am }

When I heard the news the very first thing I thought was, “Oh poor Wolvog…” My heart breaks for Job’s family, but in an odd way more so for Wolvog. Maybe because I feel like I know him, where as the family is distant. Or maybe because Wolvog is so young and it is clear from how you have written about him that he truly loved Steve Jobs. Either way, my heart went out to Wolvog last night. I hope the Apple store brings him so happiness today.

xo

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