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In her eulogy for her brother Steve Jobs, writer Mona Simpson closes with the technology guru’s final words:

Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.

Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.

Steve’s final words were:

OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.

When I quickly read through the eulogy yesterday, I assumed that Jobs was referring to his family (and how much he was in awe of them). But Steve Volk pointed out to me that Simpson says he looked at his family and then “over their shoulders past them”. Which made me think – did Steve Jobs experience a death-bed vision?

This would not actually be all that surprising – in the 2009 paper “Comfort for the Dying” (Fenwick et al), researchers found that almost two thirds of doctors, nurses and hospice carers that they surveyed reported witnessing transpersonal end-of-life experiences such as deathbed-visions. And one of the features of these visions is often looking past ‘real’ people in the room at ‘intrusions’ from another realm. For example:

[O]ne lady, about an hour before she died said, “they’re all in the room; they’re all in the room”. The room was full of people she knew and I can remember feeling quite spooked really and looking over my shoulder and not seeing a thing but she could definitely see the room full of people that she knew.

I’m also reminded of an account found in Sir William Barrett’s Death-Bed Visions – The Psychical Experiences of the Dying (post-humously published in 1926):

A matron was also present, and reported: “Her husband was leaning over her and speaking to her, when pushing him aside she said, “Oh, don’t hide it; it’s so beautiful.”

…Her baby was brought for her to see. She looked at it with interest, and then said, “Do you think I ought to stay for baby’s sake?” Then turning towards the vision again, she said, “I can’t – I can’t stay; if you could see what I do, you would know I can’t stay.”

Probably only Steve Jobs’ immediate family would be able to tell exactly whether the words were meant for them, or describing something else that he was experiencing. But it’s pretty damn awesome either way.

Update: You can read more about Steve Jobs’ death-bed experience, and those of others, in my book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife