I have been mesmerized with the Randy Pausch story since the first time I watched the unforgettable Last Lecture he delivered at Carnegie Melon University. There is only so much of Randy’s story that you can read before you have to stop and walk away and then force yourself to either promptly forget it all or tell yourself he is just a character out of very sad fiction because this story cannot simply be real.
How can a human being so heavily vested in life, when faced with the fast-approaching grip of death, continue to his last dying minutes to show care and concern for everyone around him, and keep up the spirits that Randy did to the very end? It baffles me beyond words.
I wonder if Randy believed in heaven. He was a scientist, after all. Maybe he was undecided like me. I wonder if it would have even mattered. It’s not like dying is going to be a picnic. As Steve Jobs so aptly put it in his 2005 commencement speech, even those who believe in heaven, I quote, do not want to die to get there. I wonder if Steve changed his mind about the after-life too.
I wonder about so much when it comes to death, and I am not – to my own knowledge – dying yet. At least, not with a definite timetable as Randy was, so I can only imagine the obsessive wonderment that would come over me if I were indeed given a few months to live, and the obsession would surely be about death, the very thing that we dread, not life. It would indeed be the opposite approach that Randy Pausch took. He reminded the world how to keep living and dreaming, as he was dying. What a bitter irony!
So here, as I share with you what I took away from Last Lecture, the book, which he co-authored by Jeffrey Zaslow, I will honor Randy’s wishes and focus on life, on his life and on what he offered through his short life to benefit ours. And for that, we can never thank you enough, Dr. Randy Pausch.
If you haven’t watched the Last Lecture, Randy’s story may carry less intensity and you would be robbing yourself of their true essence.
The Last Lecture was the start of it all, the world getting to know Randy Pausch. To give the last lecture or not, Randy tells us that was an agonizing decision, because when your time is really limited, you don’t want to mess around, and the lecture, along with the pre-work, simply took time away from his family. He had an itch to do it though. I love that he listened to that itch. I love that while family is significant in one’s life, that Randy honored his love of standing on that podium, and having the eyes of the entire auditorium on him, I love that he put his work above his family where this decision was concerned and trust me – if anyone loved his family, it was Randy alright – but this other passion was equally as important.
Family is not everything. There are some of us who have a mission, a calling, a reason to be here on this earth, and ignoring that purpose, which can serve millions in Randy’s case, in order to spend more time with his family would have been the less honorable thing to do. I salute Randy for giving the lecture and for making the sacrifice.
My message here is not to reduce priority on your family so much as to not lessen the importance of what you love and are meant to do, ever. Find a way to make others understand and if they don’t come along, then go do that thing that is calling your name. It will keep you from dying with a heavy heart.
Randy stood for a lot of great things. It was annoyingly difficult to find faults with him. He stood tall, proud and smiling until the day that terrible disease weakened his body to where he could stand and talk no more. How he mustered so much courage, so much strength, so much rock-hard resistance to the overwhelming force of death by embracing life so fiercely, I cannot comprehend it but I won’t stop trying.
This book review turned out to be more about Randy than about the Last Lecture. I did not plan it that way. I meant to list out all the reasons you should read The Last Lecture, and how it will make you a better person, a more grateful human being – no matter how grateful you might think you already are – and teach you where to find fulfillment and how to really think about life.
I meant to tell you a lot more but some things are best as first hand experience. I meant to tell you that when Randy talks about his childhood dreams, it makes you think of yours. When he talks about his work ethics, he makes you reconsider yours. When he talks about his romantic troubles, he seems like a very average guy but when he talks about being a husband and a father, he is far above the ordinary.
And when he talks about dying, which is on the rare occasions that he is not talking about living, he makes you wonder at how strange life really is, and why is it that when you learn how to truly live well from a brilliant guy who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, it tends to stick with you for a very long time.
Reading is the best pastime for the mind! See more book reviews here: In Print.
“We beat the reaper by living long. We beat the reaper by living well.”
~ Randy Pausch
Thank you for taking time to reflect on life and to read about a person that I think deserves attention, compassion and a huge gratitude for what he brought to us. Love to hear your thoughts on anyone who has inspired you the way Randy has inspired me.