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Steve Jobs knew his time was short, focused on family first

After years of battling complications arising from his initial bout with cancer, Steve Jobs learned in February that his time was finally running out. In his final months, he surrounded himself with those most important to him: his wife and his children.

For the past few months, Jobs had been the recipient of numerous calls and attempted visits to his Palo Alto, Calif., home, as whispers spread of his worsening condition, The New York Times reported in an intimate piece on the Apple co-founder.

Steve Jobs had quietly shared with a few of his closest friends that he thought his time was becoming short. In the final days leading up to his death this past Wednesday, there was an incessant stream of phone calls from well-wishers.

Jobs' wife, Laurene, fielded most of the calls, and in the final weeks had confided in one caller that the former Apple chief was too weak to climb the stairs of his own house. She apologized to friends, saying that Jobs only had so much energy for farewells.

"He was aware that his time on earth was limited," close friend Dr. Dean Ornish said. "He wanted control of what he did with the choices that were left."

Most of that time was spent with his family, the report noted. When Jobs was able to make it to Apple, he would finish his work for the day and immediately return home for dinner with his wife and children.

Flowers and Apples left outside Steve Jobs' home in Palo Alto. Credit: Peter DaSilva/The New York Times.

Because of his extreme secrecy, there is little known as to how Jobs' wealth will be distributed. Many wealthy business leaders leave their estates to foundations or charity, but there has been no news on how Jobs planned to mete out his roughly $7 billion fortune.

"Everyone always wanted a piece of Steve," an acquaintance told the Times. "He created all these layers to protect himself from the fan boys and other peoples' expectations and the distractions that have destroyed so many other companies."

Jobs' home was surrounded by security guards in the months leading to his death, with two black SUV's blocking his driveway. On Thursday, the two vehicles were removed, to be replaced by flowers, candles and apples from visitors.

In a Time magazine interview, Jobs' biographer Walter Isaacson asked him why he had consented to a biography, given how private he was. Jobs replied, "I wanted my kids to know me," adding that he hadn't always been there for them and he wanted them to "know why and to understand" what he did.

Steve Jobs

Jobs gave some insight into his thoughts on "why" in his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford.

"Death is very likely the single best invention of life," he said. "It is life's change agent."

The benefit of death is that it allows you to not waste life living someone else's choices, Jobs went on to explain, adding that the most important thing to have is "the courage to follow your heart and intuition."

Near the end, Jobs turned his words into practice, choosing to concentrate on his family and those that depended on him.

"Steve's concerns these last few weeks were for people who depended on him: the people who worked for him at Apple and his four children and his wife," said Mona Simpson, Jobs' sister. "His tone was tenderly apologetic at the end. He felt terrible that he would have to leave us."

Little is known of Steve Jobs' personal life, and he wanted it that way. His obsession with secrecy continued until the day he died, but perhaps, in death, he will be better understood. His biography will be released in two weeks, and Time has released a special issue to commemorate the Apple co-founder.

Jobs' acquaintance, speaking to the Times in anonymity, may have put it best: "Once you're gone, you belong to the world."