When Steve Jobs took his most recent medical leave, in January 2011, we knew that he wasn't coming back. This was obvious from the letter that he sent to Apple's employees. Unlike a tweet, that's casually written, his medical leave message was very carefully worded. The key was in the last paragraph:
"I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can."
If Steve had any realistic expectations of returning, that sentence would have read, I love Apple so much and I'll be back as soon as I can.
Hope is a dirty word for people like Steve Jobs.
It's very sad to think that, even though the end may not be days or weeks away for Steve, it's clearly very near. If there was a reasonable chance of his return then his resignation wouldn't have been effective immediately. Another tell is the fact that he mentions life in last week's resignation letter:
"I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple."
End of life issues are never easy to confront. It changes how you perceive reality.
End of Life
When I was young, I used to look at the elderly and think, "Don't you wish that you were young so that you could see what the future holds many decades from now?" Then, I was diagnosed with late stage, wide spread cancer which had metastasized. My perception of the elderly immediately changed to, "If only I could have a chance to experience life for as long as you have." My insight into life was a complete paradigm shift.
When facing your own end of life issues, you think about some things that you never considered such as where, when, or how you want to die. For me, it was on a hill overlooking the San Clemente Pier at sunset.
Some end of life thoughts are strikingly odd. For example, when looking at a bug on a bush in the backyard I was struck by the realization that these "lower" forms of life could outlive me.
One epiphany that gave me some relief was the fact that everything in the universe has a life cycle. Death, as final as it is, is completely normal on an absolute level. It doesn't matter if you're religious or atheist – you can simply look at everything – living and non-living – from plants and animals to the stars and planets and realize that at some point in the future they will no longer be around. It's simply the way of the universe.
Fortunately, for me, my story ends, literally, with a cure for cancer. But, as robust as life is, Steve Jobs reminds us that "life is fragile."