Dean Ornish one of the few to see Steve Jobs in his last months of life

Michael Santo's picture

In February, then Apple CEO Steve Jobs learned that his cancer was probably going to claim his life within the year, and the famously private Apple CEO and founder wasted no time on frivolous socializing, but he did speak to a privileged few, including one Dr. Dean Ornish.

Already known for his strict regard for privacy of his personal life, Jobs guarded his last bits of time tightly, recognizing that, more than ever, every minute counted. He quietly told the news to a few acquaintances, who then quietly spread the word. The calls and visits trickled in at first, then grew to a torrent in the last few weeks. Many were diverted by Jobs’ wife Laurene, who 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 own home anymore, she confided to one caller.

Some were very insistent, and wouldn't take no for an answer. One, in fact, was told to stop calling.

Jobs spent the last weeks of his life in tight control of his time. One of the friends privileged enough to see the dying icon was Dr. Dean Ornish, a health advocate who, you might recall, developed a renowned heart-healthy diet program. Ornish joined the Apple icon for sushi at Jobs' favorite Japanese restaurant in Palo Alto, Jin Sho.

Ornish, who was on a first-name basis with Steve Jobs, said, “Steve made choices. 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.’ For Steve, it was all about living life on his own terms and not wasting a moment with things he didn’t think were important. He was aware that his time on earth was limited. He wanted control of what he did with the choices that were left.”

In addition to traveling to Apple to work, up until about six weeks prior to his death, when he resigned as Apple's CEO, Jobs spent most of his time with his wife and children in these last few months. As news of the seriousness of his illness became more widely known, Mr. Jobs was asked to attend farewell dinners and to accept various awards, which he turned down. Ornish said, “He was very human. He was so much more of a real person than most people know. That’s what made him so great.”

Dr. Dean Ornish is president and founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, as well as Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Ornish is widely known for his lifestyle-driven approach to the control of coronary artery disease, which he developed as a regimen featuring yoga, meditation, a low-fat vegan diet, smoking cessation, and regular exercise. He has acknowledged his debt to Swami Satchidananda for helping him develop this holistic perspective on preventive health.

Given Steve Jobs’ spiritual sympathies with the East, including a trip to India in search of spiritual enlightenment as a young man, it is unsurprising he formed a friendship with the doctor. During this time, Jobs experimented with psychedelics, calling his LSD experiences "one of the two or three most important things [he had] done in [his] life,” and he believed that people around him who did not share his countercultural roots could not fully relate to his thinking.

Sources: (1, 2)

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