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Joseph Cramer, M.D.: Death, heaven and wonder

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 22 2011 4:29 p.m. MST

Heaven can’t wait. It’s open 24/7 for everyone. It doesn’t matter whether someone doesn’t want to enter or doesn’t believe it exists. When the body stops taking in oxygen, biochemical reactions cease, and what we call life is over. Heaven starts.

Heaven is quite different even to the various groups of believers. However, there are people who have experienced something when their vital signs are unobtainable. Are they scouts who have gone ahead and have returned? What about kids who tell stories that are not from this dimension? Men and women of vision have seen places of grandeur beyond the power of human language to describe or earthly minds to comprehend.

I don’t know what exactly Steve Jobs believed. He was not a church-going kind of guy. It was said the teachings of Buddha were more to his liking. Whatever his beliefs, his sister described in a touching eulogy his passing to something.

Steve was born to an unmarried mother. As an infant he was given to the Jobs family to raise. His sister was later born of the same parentage, but was kept by the mother after the father abandoned them. For years, she had no contact with Steve. Finally, when they first met, he told her he had started a company that made computers.

They became close over the years, and in his final days he called her to his bedside. As he lay dying she was there with his family. She had admired how hard he had worked. He never did anything without effort; even when leaving, he had to labor.

Jobs was a man who demanded perfection, who at times was a tyrant about details and design, and who did not suffer fools well. In many ways he was a troubled, creative genius with the ghost of abandonment that haunted him his whole life. He was driven to art, and his interest in calligraphy led to the Mac graphic user interface. Every product he touched embodied his personal view of beauty. The iPhone, iPod, the iPad, the Macs are simple but elegant.

For Jobs to be impressed should mean something for the rest of us who type on his laptops, answer his phones or have a gazillion apps on his iPad. As Jobs struggled to the end, he came upon his heaven. Whatever he saw, sensed or felt must have been pretty incredible. Anything else would not have dazzled him.

The last words of Steve Jobs were, “Oh wow.”

For the believers he is another witness. For the non-believers, his story is a tale of neurons firing with low oxygen or metabolic toxic buildup. Regardless of a person’s vision of heaven, there is a message for the living.

For someone who had it all on earth, he could still be impressed. He was a billionaire. He started, owned and ran the most valuable company in the world. He was a social and technological icon. He looked good in mock turtleneck sweaters and jeans. Time magazine posted his picture. He was still wowed.

We who believe can model a heaven here. For the unbelievers, they can pretend and make a heaven of their own making now. We can all learn and do something together. It doesn’t have to be computer science. We could rediscover love or hold a newborn baby. They are double wows.

Between here and heaven we all have the chance to be amazed. Art, engineering, music, words, people, animals, nature, architecture, the magic of relationships, people of sacrifice and goodness and all God’s creatures evoke wonderment. Explore forgiveness or taste repentance. Embrace miracles. Be appreciative of just sensing the incredible or the unfathomable. Gratitude is part of awe

Steve Jobs left Apple behind but gave us more to wonder about than an iPhone. What did he mean, “Oh wow”?

Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a practicing pediatrician for 30 years and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. He can be reached at jgcramermd@yahoo.com.

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