I agree with Peggy Noonan. Steve Jobs’ final words: “OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW!” “were the best thing said in 2011.” Noonan also wrote, “”Oh wow” is not a bad way to express the bigness, power and force of life, and death.”
I think she is right on. When faced with a year of natural and human made disasters that left many of us speechless with horror or disillusionment or pain, it felt comforting to know that a man who was a visionary in the world of techno-development, saw death as an astounding happening. It gives us the sense that there is more than what is visible here in front of us…and that death is not the end. You sense that there is a bigger picture that we are not capable of knowing.
You do wonder what it was he saw when he looked away from his family’s eyes.
I remember my mother doing the same thing when she was dying. She did it often in the final days. I would say she was going to the other side. I know she was seeing something or someone that gladdened her when she looked above my head and behind me. I remember sitting next to her one day when my dad brought in a baby picture of my daughter. Mother, who had seemed to be almost comatose, grabbed the photo and slapped it onto her forehead. She stayed that way until Dad brought a picture of my son. Then she took his picture and did the same. I remember thinking that she was eager to go to the other side, but was hesitant to leave us behind. I think she was trying to manipulate the process by trying to imprint their images. If she could take the memory of the children with her, she would gladly go.
When my dad was edging towards death, I sat with him every day too. Once he started awake and said, “Who is that?” There was no one in the room other than him and me. I thought maybe he was seeing someone I couldn’t see… . “I don’t know ,” I said. “Who do you think it is?” He knew from my tone that I had gone “Woo-Woo” on him so he just rolled his eyes and sank back onto his pillows.
Dad used to roll his eyes a lot that last year. I remember my sister coming into town, armed with the decision she was going to talk straight to Dad. “He probably wants to talk about dying,” she said. “I’ll give him the opportunity.” So she did. As she talked about his approaching death, Dad, who really wasn’t interested in that topic, rolled his eyes at me behind her back. I fixed him a strong martini and handed it to him. He sipped gratefully.
What’s weird is that now my dog rolls his eyes at me in just the same way. Every time he does it, I think of my dad and wonder about reincarnation.