A few years back, for my 65th birthday, my kids decided it was time for me to enter the 21st century. They bought me a nano, that smallest of Apple's iPods. Staring at the shiny, two-inch metal mechanism, with the sleekest of white circles at its center, I was stumped. But patient tutoring and persistence paid off, and I figured it out.
As millions had discovered long before, the rewards were prodigious. Mozart, Brahms and Samuel Barber became my traveling companions. Leonard Nimoy's Yiddish short stories, Bernstein's Candide Suite and Beethoven's Violin Concerto eased my travel and my soul during tedious stretches on the highway. They were even at my bedside during a brief hospital stay.
I was never an Apple computer user, and yet I find myself mourning the loss of Steve Jobs. The overflowing, endless expressions of sadness seem, in some ways, a fitting match for the wonder of his genius. The most touching image I've seen since his death was of several iPads, a solitary virtual candle glowing on their shiny displays.
Beyond the hymns of praise to his technological savvy, his grasp for design, and his finely honed perception of what people wanted, I find myself starkly, profoundly, distressingly saddened for a wondrous life cut short.
Even after 25 years in the clergy world, and another 15 on a college campus with its share of heartbreak, the loss of a Steve Jobs is difficult. His death, at the very acme of his creative abilities, should leave us, at least for while, bereft.
It is one more reminder, as religious faiths regularly tell us, that life hangs by a thread. Our loss of this amazing fount of invention, at such a premature age, stands as a distressing signal of our human vulnerabilities.
Gilda Radner, another great American original, wrote: "I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end." Once more we have learned about a brilliant life whose end came before its middle was over.
Barry Cytron, a former congregational rabbi in Minneapolis, is now a chaplain and professor at Macalester College in St. Paul.