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If "he not busy being born is busy dying", Randy Pausch is immortal,
This review is from: The Last Lecture (Hardcover)
One of the staples of "the college experience" at many schools is the "last lecture" --- a beloved professor sums up a lifetime of scholarship and teaching as if he/she were heading out the door for the last time. It's the kind of tweed-jacket-with-elbow-patches talk that may or may not impart useful knowledge and lasting inspiration, but almost surely gives all present some warm and fuzzy feelings.
But a "last lecture" by Randy Pausch was different in every possible way. The professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University was just 46, and this really was his last lecture --- he was dying.
And dying fast. In the summer of 2006, Pausch had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a ferociously efficient killer. Only 4% of its victims are alive five years after diagnosis. Most die much faster. Think months, not years.
Pausch fought back. Surgery. Chemo. Progress. But in August of 2007, the cancer returned --- and now it had metastasized to his liver and spleen. The new prognosis: 3-6 months of relative health, then a quick dispatch to the grave, leaving behind a wife and three little kids.
On September 18, 2007 --- less than a month later --- Randy Pausch gave his last lecture.
No one would have faulted him for launching a blast about desperately seizing opportunities in an irrational universe. Instead, Pausch delivered a laugh-filled session of teaching stories about going after your childhood dreams and helping others achieve theirs and enjoying every moment in your life --- even the ones that break your heart. Pausch's philosophy, in brief: "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."
The lecture was taped, and slapped up on YouTube. Jeffrey Zaslow wrote about it in The Wall Street Journal, and news shows made Pausch "person of the week" --- and soon Pausch had a book deal reported to be worth almost $7 million. Few expected him to be alive when it was published.
On February 19, I interviewed Randy Pausch for Reader's Digest. To the surprise of many --- including Pausch --- he was still his recognizable, energetic self. As I write (in early April, 2008), Pausch reports he's recovering from a standing eight count. But his good news doesn't deceive him. He notes that pancreatic cancer did to the photographer Dith Pran ("The Killing Fields") what Pol Pot couldn't --- it buried him in three months.
And now we have the book. It's two books, really, because it reads one way with the author still among us and will surely read differently when "The Last Lecture" is like the The Butterfly and the Diving Bell --- the record of a dead man, talking. The first book invites your support and gives you a wake-up call. The second, I suspect, is also a wake-up call but, between the lines, reminds you that even happiness can't save you from death.
Somewhere in between --- in the quiet space where a book really lives --- is a document that accomplishes a lot in 200 pages. It's about paying attention to what you think is important (when asked how he got tenure early, Pausch replied, "Call me at my office at 10 o'clock on Friday night and I'll tell you") and working hard and listening really well. It's easy to miss that last part of that in the emotion and the stories surrounding this book, but Pausch argues that hearing what other people say about you and your work is crucial to success and happiness. Because this is what you get: "a feedback loop for life."
So, if you must, shed your tears for Randy Pausch. Imagine what it would be like if you or your dearest loved one drew the card called pancreatic cancer. And then put dying aside, and get on with your dreams. Amazing how many you can achieve if you want them badly enough. And how they have the power to cushion the pain when the bad stuff happens.
Sounds crazy, I know: Pollyanna in the cancer ward. But I talked with the guy. And we laughed and laughed. Of all the achievements in a life that's winding down, that's got to be up there.
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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 9, 2008 11:48:08 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 9, 2008 11:57:41 PM PDT
Warrenette Dailey says:
As a wife who experienced what Randy's wife is going through now, it is true that his open communication style is a relief in this "politically correct" world. I like that he ventures forward with the truth and managed to understand the reality of people really don't want the truth. My husband will be gone 8 years in a few months and I clearly remember people telling me that I wasn't mourning. My response was that "because I don't do it like you does not mean that I don't. Do you want me to do something in particular to please you?" That was the end of that comment. Well the reality is that we were open, honest and truthful to each other and I supported my husband's choices in his final days of ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's disease) who was lucky enough to have a cardiologist say "if you want the easy way out, your heart will be your ticket" and went on to say "otherwise you will suffocate slowly with the ALS". The heart which is also a muscle, which ALS focuses on, is what took his life in reality. A couple of months before he left us we went to the hospital ER because of a heart arythymia (irregular/fast heartbeat). The cardiologist at that hospital (a different hospital) told my husband, in my presence, that he was an "excellent candidate for a heart transplant". After reading one of the reviews of this book, it makes me realize what I said to the cardiologist to be the epitamy of honesty. Because my husband, who was emotionally strong (similar to Randy) and we were open and honest with each other regarding his situation, I told the cardiologist "Are you crazy? When someone is this far into the disease, [mortality is 5 years from inception on the average] why would you give him a new heart (speaking of my husband), when there are much younger men and women [my husband was 54 at the time] and children who have not had the opportunity to enjoy life as long as we have? The doctor was mortified and said, "you talk about this in front of him" [referring to my husband's presence] and I said "yes, ask him; I am sure he will agree with me" and that was a reality that people, even intelligent people, are not willing to face. Randy appropriately named his book's 2nd line of A Love Story for Your Life, as my husband showed his love and said "the only regret I have about dying is that I would prefer to be with you and not leave you alone". My response was that I was not a little girl and I would be fine - sometimes you really do have to bite the bullet. My kudos to you for attending this lecture and absorbing 'quality of life' and my support definitely goes to his wife. I just watched Randy on TV with Diane Sawyer and cannot wait to read his book. Thanks for the writing your note and especially understanding what it means to put death aside and go about the business of living and enjoying life. I remember my mother and husband joking about who would desert me first and now, having just lost my mother, my final parent, I now realize more than ever that I must go forward and live life to it's fullest and set the same example for my son. Thanks again for your posting. Regards, Warry
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 10, 2008 9:44:48 PM PDT
S. messerli says:
thanks - you are an inspiration and a brave woman - you are an example of the strength of the human spirit
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 14, 2008 9:39:04 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 14, 2008 9:47:21 AM PDT
Marlene Langert says:
Amen! NOt only did my husband died 14 years ago at the age of 57, but I facilitate bereavement groups. Do not ever, ever let anyone tell you that you are not mouning. Every one of us mourns in our own way. My daughter never cried and my oldest son cried on the plane all the way back from California. They both still miss him. If anything, my daugther still feels his presence almost as much as I do. I still miss him, but I have been having fun in this new part of my life with many new friends and new experiences. That does not mean we do not love them and mourn them. MY bereavement groups have the same variety and even more.I watched Randy on Oprah and with Diane Sawyer last week. He has a wonderful attitude and that plays a huge part in his living longer, maybe a great deal longer.
My best friend in this new part of my life was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer ten years ago. She is not only still around , but still in remission. She wore the silliest hats ever and we joked and talked and laughed at her chemo treatments, even played marbles once on the floor there and other patients joined in when they finished their treatments. She brought funny signs to put on the wall.
My best friend since childhood was diagnosed with stage two lung cancer. She went home and stayed there waiting to die and she did, 18 months later. Attitude is extremely important in a disease and in handling whatever happens to us in life, including losing the love of our life or , god forbid, a child. Life is for savoring and enjoying until the end, as long as we can.
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 14, 2008 5:50:43 PM PDT
Barbara J. Corona says:
Bless You... We all grieve differently and their is nothing wrong with that. I can rmeember back in 1974 when my Mother passed away and I was young all of 19 years old. I would not cry in front of my Dad I felt I had to be strong for him, to help him, and people wondered why I did not cry. Little did they know that I did all of my crying with my friends and alone at night. Sometimes I think people are looking for the "Drama" of everything in stead of simply being strong with you. When our turn comes to leave this world I feel we are allowed to choose whether we want to be strong or not--once again to each his own. You did a fine job Warry and I hope you continue remaining strong. Blessings, Brown Eyes
Posted on Apr 16, 2008 4:41:41 PM PDT
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2008 6:45:34 PM PDT
Thank you for a beautiful post.
Posted on May 17, 2008 8:20:34 PM PDT
Slim Jensin says:
"He not busy being born is busy dying" Bob Dylan
Posted on May 22, 2008 8:49:27 AM PDT
Forgive me for being crass, but Wikipedia has something useful to say about this review:
"Some book reviews resemble simple plot summaries."
That's a bit of stretch, I know. This review does a great job at summarizing the crucial and salient points of Pausch's life that have lead us here to commenting on Amazon. And towards the end, there are some hopeful occasions when a review seems forthcoming, but alas, we are again treated to nothing more than a few arm chair comments about the reviewers own outlook on how to live ones' life. A review has a specific structure, which this particular collection lacks.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2008 6:27:07 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 4, 2008 6:32:52 PM PDT]
Posted on Jun 25, 2008 8:09:00 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 4, 2008 7:24:33 PM PDT
K. Gilligan says:
Unless you are edson.financial.group on ebay.com, I believe that that user has stolen your review for "The Last Lecture" and posted it as their own. I'm a fellow Amazon.com reviewer and found one of my reviews word for word under that user's name. I've reported the matter to ebay but have gotten no response. A quick google check of some of the user's other reviews brought up the Amazon.com reviews- including yours. I just thought you would want to be aware of this issue. Your copied review can be seen at the link below.
If you want to remove your review from edson.financial.group's reviews, you need to fill out and fax this VERO form: http://pages.ebay.com/help/community/NOCI
At this time ONE person has succeeded in having her review removed from edson's reviews. I hope that number will go up! Spread the word!