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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Last Lecture

This morning on Good Morning America they featured an extraordinary guy named Randy Pausch. Randy is a prominent Computer Science professor at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). In late 2006, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and underwent surgery and extensive chemotherapy. However, these treatments were not effective. In late 2007 he was told his cancer had metastasized and had spread to his liver and spleen. Randy was then told he would only have 3 to 6 months of good health left. Since that diagnosis, Randy delivered his "Last Lecture" titled "Really Achieving your Childhood Dreams" to colleagues and students at CMU. His lecture was very upbeat, humorous and full of life lessons. It earned him a standing ovation and inadvertedly brought him to the limelight. Randy has since given his "last lecture" in several other venues and it has since been downloaded countless times. It has even gone to publication and is now a bestseller that provides inspiration to many. But more than being just any other inspirational speaker what is truly admirable is how Randy continues to live his life. By living his life to the fullest, it is a true testament to how strong a person he really is. Randy continues to be a great husband to his wife, a loving dad to his three kids and a mentor to many of his students. Randy has also gone to fulfill his dreams - playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers for a day, having a cameo role on a Star Trek movie, even testifying before Congress in support of cancer research, and through his lectures and book continues to touch the lives of many.

While driving to work, I thought about how inspiring this man really was. Faced with a pending end to his mortality, he chooses to go on living and making each day matter. He spends it with the people he loves while at the same time inspiring so many others. He could just as easily have chosen to retreat in self-pity and depression or he could have wallowed in anger and resentment. But he rose above that. It made me think about how I would live my life if I were given a 3-6 month "deadline". Would I be like Randy and still live my life to the fullest? Would I remain positive? Would the same things still matter? Would I still be rushing to work to make a 9 AM meeting? Would I still put in 10-12 hour workdays and stress over work? Would I still care that I have 20 pounds to lose for my sister's wedding? Would I worry about what to make for dinner or that the laundry has piled up? Would it still matter that our garage has not yet been renovated and that our home equity has dipped? Would I still stress over sleepless nights and worry about oversleeping in the morning? Would I still postpone that European vacation that Jojo and I have talked of taking? Would I still turn off my cellphone and forget to check my voice and emails as I rush thru the day? Would I still only talk to my parents and sisters once a week instead of every day? Would I spend more time with my friends and loved ones instead of only meeting them only when it's convenient?

I'd like to think I would live my last days as stress-free and happy as possible. I would quit my job, give up the pressure and instead experience things I've been putting off - like traveling, watching shows on Broadway, eating foods that I love, and reading to my heart's content. I would take leisurely walks and enjoy the day instead of staying in and watching too much tv. I would have more family and friends over instead of worrying that the house isn't clean enough. I would use our fine China and bring out the towels and bedlinens that have been saved only for special occasions. I would light the scented candles and use the decorative soap that are only for display. I would find time to make Jojo's favorite dishes instead of relying on take-out and give in to more of his requests (like watching Saturday morning cartoons instead of nagging him to help me with housework). I would read more stories to my nieces and build Science projects with my nephews. I would make an effort to keep in touch more - return phone calls, answer emails, keep lunchdates and write letters (no one writes letters anymore!). I would try to make a difference in someone's life - whether thru sharing myself and my experiences or at the very least donating the things that have brought me joy. I would give up my to do lists, stop being so regimented and just do things on the fly. I would surround myself with family, friends and those that are dear to me. I would right the wrongs I have caused and tell the people that I love how much they mean to me. I guess I would do many things quite differently. It's a little sad that I would give up and give in to so many things only if I knew I wouldn't have very long to live. I think many of us would find that our priorities change when faced with this situation. Hopefully, this realization helps us to continue dreaming and hoping as if we had many more days but living as if today were our last.


daimos said...

I will try to look for Mr. Randy Pausch's last lecture. I hope to pick up some good and inspirational ideas from him. Thanks for the information.

jol said...

It certainly is a blessing when we are given advance warning on the end of our life. Randy Pausch and you have shown all the many things one can do to live life to the fullest once we received our "deadline".

Coffy said...

oddly enough i caught the same thing today. i got a one of those weekly updates from border's and i saw a clip. makes you really think. life is too short to worry about the small stuff. :D

watch the shawshank redemption.

- monse

jml said...

I had the good fortune to see and hear the last lecture of Randy Pausch through youtube a while ago. It was both heart warming and heart breaking to see and listen to him speak. He is a brave and wise man and his life is an inspiration to many.

Anonymous said...