In his 2005 address to the Stanford University graduating class he told them that “death is life’s change agent.” Yesterday, the man who was one of the leaders of the information revolution and permanently changed the way our society shares and communicates information, left this world silent of the end-of-life experience.
He gave us tools to help us elevate ourselves beyond our own expectations of what defines us. Yet at the end of his life, only a simple statement back on August 24 shared little.
It brings up the issue how even the most innovative of us are still trapped by society’s taboos, by topics that we haven’t got the courage, understanding, or education to talk about comfortably.
Whether its end-of-life or chronic illness, the notion of sickness is something we still don’t have an open dialogue about. People whose bodies are suffering are stigmatized by their conditions. And public behaviour ends up marginalizing the individual.
It would have been interesting, no doubt, had Steve Jobs shared with us, even a minute portion of his experience with illness and impending death. How liberating might it have been if among all the billions of accolades that are coming out today, there would be one that recognized that a new dialogue and public discourse got started about the understanding of illness and death in our society.
As someone who has lived with a chronic illness for over 30 years I understand how deeply personal it is and the many difficult choices that patients are faced with. It will take work but I’m convinced that we’ll be able to share and listen to the experience of patients without fear, judgment, self-pity or shame.
In his Stanford address Steve Jobs spoke about looking back to connect the dots. Maybe in the future, we will see his words about death and change and understand how they might inspire a new level of conversation.