As time ran short, Jobs 'made choices'

  • Article by: CHARLES DUHIGG , New York Times
  • Updated: October 6, 2011 - 10:54 PM

In the weeks before his death, a loss mourned by the world, he focused on family and friends.


Over the past few months, a steady stream of visitors to Palo Alto, Calif., called an old friend's home number and asked if he was well enough to entertain visitors, perhaps for the last time.

In February, Steven Jobs had learned that, after years of fighting cancer, his time was becoming shorter. He quietly told a few acquaintances, and they, in turn, whispered to others. And so a pilgrimage began.

The calls trickled in at first. Just a few, then dozens, and in recent weeks, a nearly endless stream of people, according to people close to Jobs. Most were intercepted by his wife, Laurene. She would apologetically explain that he was too tired to receive many visitors. In his final weeks, he became so weak that it was hard for him to walk up the stairs of his home, she confided to one caller.

Some asked if they might try again tomorrow. Sorry, she replied. He had only so much energy for farewells.

The man who valued his privacy almost as much as his ability to leave his mark on the world had decided who he most needed to see before he left.

He spent his final weeks -- as he had spent most of his life -- in tight control of his choices. He invited a close friend, Dean Ornish, to join him for sushi at one of his favorite restaurants, Jin Sho in Palo Alto. He said goodbye to longtime colleagues including venture capitalist John Doerr, Apple board member Bill Campbell and Disney chief executive Robert Iger. He offered executives advice on Tuesday's unveiling of the iPhone 4S. He spoke to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, who said Jobs agreed to the book because "I wanted my kids to know me." He started a new drug regime and told some that there was cause for hope.

'Tenderly apologetic'

Mostly, he spent time with his wife and children -- who will now oversee a fortune of at least $6.5 billion, and, in addition to their grief, take on responsibility for tending to his legacy.

"Steve made choices," Ornish said. "I once asked him if he was glad that he had kids, and he said, 'It's 10,000 times better than anything I've ever done.'"

He added: "For Steve, it was all about living life on his own terms and not wasting a moment."

Said novelist Mona Simpson, Jobs' sister whom he met as an adult: "Steve's concerns these last few weeks were for people who depended on him: the people who worked for him at Apple and his four children and his wife. His tone was tenderly apologetic at the end. He felt terrible that he would have to leave us."

On the days that he was well enough to go to Apple's offices, all he wanted afterward was to return home and have dinner with his family. When one acquaintance became too insistent on trying to send a gift, he was asked to stop calling. Jobs had other things to do before time ran out. "He was very human," Ornish said. "He was so much more of a real person than most people know."

In his final months, Jobs' home -- a large and comfortable but relatively modest brick house -- was surrounded by security guards. His driveway's gate was flanked by two black SUVs.

On Thursday, as online eulogies multiplied and the walls of Apple stores in Taiwan, New York, Shanghai and Frankfurt were papered with hand-drawn cards, the SUVs were removed and the sidewalk at his home became a garland of bouquets, candles and a pile of apples, each with one bite carefully removed.

From high tech titans to teenagers with iPads, millions worldwide mourned the man whose wizardry transformed their lives. Fans for whom the brand became a near-religion grasped for comparisons to the great innovators and biggest celebrities.

'I just needed to be here'

"I was so saddened. For me it was like Michael Jackson or Princess Diana -- that magnitude," Stephen Jarjoura, 43, said at the flagship Apple store in Australia's biggest city, Sydney. He said Jobs' legacy would surpass that of even Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison.

Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple in a garage in 1976, said Jobs "had the ability to think out new ways of doing things ... to do it in a totally different way that the world would swing toward."

In Tokyo, Apple aficionados gathered at an iStore for a sunset vigil organized via Twitter, holding up virtual candles on their iPhones and iPads. "I knew I had to come," said university student Hideki Fujita, 18. "I just needed to be here."

In Lagos, Nigeria, technology specialist Gbenga Sesan said Jobs will be remembered any time anyone uses "an iPhone, iPad, iTouch, or an i-anything." "Even though Steve is gone, Steve is still with us."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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