A Personal Story From Joan Larsen: Remembering Steve Jobs

Posted on February 27, 2013


By Joan Larsen

Innovation distinguishes

between a leader and a follower.

–  Steve Jobs

1-indentOn the corner of Huron and Michigan Avenue on Chicago’s Miracle Mile lies Steve Job’s two-story APPLE store, glass-fronted, stunning, and always a drawing card for the out-of-town crowds packing the sidewalks, drawn to the displays of the latest innovative products that are about to hit the market.

Most of the world knew in minutes of his death on October 5, 2011.  Within hours afterwards, his building had become a shrine.  Lit candles in glass jars glittered against the store’s windows.  Flowers began to build up against the entrance.

Perhaps I was the last to know that Jobs had passed away.  It was early morning when I was released from a short hospital stay — less than a block away.  As I approached the Apple store, I saw TV crews in place, live interviews taking place at every angle in the first hours of daylight.    I saw a black carpet of a rubberized fabric being rolled out… but my eyes were drawn by the growing shrine – flowers being placed so lovingly by people from all walks of life in the  hours before 7 a.m.  My eyes teared.

In a flash I tripped on that rolling carpet, falling hard on my face, overnight bag and purse determining their  own directions.  Face down and on the ground and hurting, I realized that I had become almost a  piece of the shrine, stretched out and unable to move.

All of us have had embarrassing moments in life… but this was very different.  I had become a plank, facing down — wind knocked out of me — and resting among the many lit candles and the bouquets.  Cameras turned in my direction, sensing that – perhaps for the first time – a person was actually leading the beginning of a “love-in” for Steve Jobs.  (Truly, no matter who the person was, you must understand , an extemporaneous gesture of this sort just wouldn’t be me, given a chance.  But then, I was not given a choice!)

Flowers crowning my head  and shoulders and scattered around me, I made efforts to stand but  couldn’t.  Men in particular came over, asking how I was.  Asking if they could help me.    Frankly, they renewed my faith in mankind.  I found how many people really care in what I had thought was a “me first” era.  Rarely have I been so touched.

And so – at an unlikely time and place, completely unplanned – I had more than a few moments on that ground  to think about the wondrous changes this relatively young man had made to our world before the ambulance came for me.   I was able to say my own unplanned goodbyes in a rather unique way… caught by the TV cameras rolling, surrounded by solicitous passersby, on the least private thoroughfare in Chicago.

An afterword:  My bones, broken as I fell amongst the flowers and candles of Steve Job’s shrine, healed – as bones do.  But, once in a blue moon, I still feel their dull ache.  And then – as they did today, the memories flood back.  As we all know, life never seems to stop giving us pause, making us think, making us realize that we should be making each day of our lives the best it can be.

Stories and articles – and now a movie biopic of the man, starring Ashton Kutcher, is coming out (and already rated a “don’t see”) – have been increasingly critical of Steve Jobs, the man, and how he conducted his business life.  The press continue to give us unending fodder… and yes, we are even more vocal in our own opinions over time.

I would much rather leave you with some words from Steve Jobs – the man, a masterful orator who had such a way of turning a phrase that, long ago, I printed two out that remain in front of me daily:

When I was 17, a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, some day you’ll most certainly be right.’  It made an impression on me, and since then I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’  And whenever the answer has to be ‘NO’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

And then, this one:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become.  Everything else is secondary.”

Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth.  But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again.  She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”