I was writing a post about the iPhone when the news of the death of Steve Jobs came across my Google+ stream. Only a minute later my phone started humming with the plethora of texts that are still coming in as I write this.
Jobs touched so many people. In the coming days and weeks, as we watch and read the flood of stories that will be authored, we’ll see many people telling us just how deeply they admired and loved Steve Jobs. He was brilliant, daring, and truly visionary. But I want to share one story of why I came to feel that I owed Steve Jobs a very personal debt of thanks.
I’ve used an Apple iPhone ever since, in early 2008, I was given one by a dear friend after my father died. It didn’t take me long to realize the power of that device. One year later my mother would be diagnosed with cancer and she would begin a long and desperate battle. She chose to take treatment several hundred miles away from home because she wanted her to have the best care that she could get.
It was a lonely battle. She had only two family members close to her on a day-to-day basis, and most of her family, including her grandchildren and me, were far away. We talked to her as often as we could, but she was often too weak to talk to all the people who were calling. In the years leading up to her cancer, my mother had cultivated a rather lengthy list of email friends, many going back to her high school days from the 1950s. So, when she found herself far from her computer and trapped in bed because of the debilitating chemotherapy treatments, she quickly lapsed into a depression caused, in no small part, by her isolation.
Then, on January 27, 2010, Steve Jobs stepped onto a stage in San Francisco and announced the iPad. Critics called it an over-sized iPod Touch, but they were so mistaken. I immediately saw the potential, and placed my order.
We flew my mother home during a break between different courses of treatment. It was May, and her grand-kids and I had a special mother’s day present waiting for her — an iPad 3G. At first, she did not really know what it was other than a very small computer. But it only took five minutes for her to discover how to use her fingers to swipe between the email app that would connect her to family and friends, the Kindle app that would allow her to continue reading, and the web browser that would connect her to the outside world.
My mother would die six months later. It is not an overstatement to say that the iPad liberated her. The iPad allowed her to rejoin her world of friends, family, reading, and so much more. She even watched religious services on that iPad. She took it with her to her chemo treatments, and it kept her company on the long car rides and airplane rides she would endure over those last few months.
So that is why I will forever feel a debt of gratitude to Steve Jobs. His vision, and the reality of his iPad, freed my mother from solitude and, in her darkest hours, gave her the means to connect with family and friends, and so much more.