When Does Respect Go Too Far?

The recent death of Steve Jobs is very sad, and I like many other people in the world of Mac and iOS software development would like to acknowledge how much the products that he helped to create changed my life. My sympathy goes out to his family and close friends.

A post on this topic by Jeff LaMarche crystallised something that I’ve been feeling though about the coverage of Steve’s death.

I’ve heard and read many heartfelt expressions of sadness from people - at his loss, and of respect for the work that he did and the impact that he had on their life.

However I’ve also heard some hyperbolic statements, mostly by prominent public figures, that made me feel a little uneasy.

My experience is that excessive eulogising can be a burden too if you lose someone close to you.

It is nice to remember the good sides of someone, but it’s unreal to pretend that they didn’t have quirks and flaws, and it can get a bit painful if you feel that someone is being turned into something that they weren’t. If you lose someone close, you want to remember them as they were - a human being - and not as some sort of mythical paragon.

Of course in this case it is very complicated because Steve has such a public profile and genuinely was a hero to many.

I suppose I just wish that people would limit themselves in these cases to saying what a good effect someone had on their own lives - and leave speculation about their overall place in history, or the effect they had on society as a whole, for another day (and the perspective that a bit more time will bring).