Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Last Lecture

Continued on from: In the Face of Fear

The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch

I have been reading this book slowly, tentatively and have found it to be not as frightening or unsettling as I first thought. Randy Pausch, has faced devastating medical diagnosis with the utmost dignity and inspiration to others. I would like to quote a short chapter from the book that moved me very much.

Chapter 13

The Man in the Red Convertible

One morning, well after I was diagnosed with cancer, I got an email from Robbee Kosak, Carnegie Mellon's vice president for advancement. She told me a story.

She said she had been driving home from work the night before, and she found herself behind a man in a convertible. It was a warm, gorgeous, early spring evening, and the man had his top down and all his windows lowered. His arm was hanging over the driver's side door, and his fingers were tapping along to the music on his radio. His head was bobbing along, too, as the wind blew through his hair.

Robbee changed lanes and pulled a little closer. From the side, she could see that the man had a slight smile on his face, the kind of absentminded smile a person might have when he's all alone, happy in his own thoughts. Robbee found herself thinking: "Wow, this is the epitome of a person appreciating this day and this moment."

The convertible eventually turned the corner, and that's when Robbee got a look at the man's full face. "Oh my God," she said to herself. "It's Randy Pausch!"

She was so struck by the sight of me. She knew that my cancer diagnosis was grim. And yet, as she wrote in her email, she was moved by how contented I seemed. In this private moment, I was obviously in high spirits. Robbee wrote in her email, "You can never know how much that glimpse of you made my day, reminding me of what life is all about."

I read Robbee's email several times. I came to look at it as a feedback loop or sorts.

It has not always been easy to stay positive through my cancer treatment. When you have a dire medical issue, it's tough to know how you're really faring emotionally. I had wondered whether a part of me was acting when I was with other people. Maybe at times I forced myself to appear strong and upbeat. Many cancer patients feel obliged to put up a brave front. Was I doing that, too?

But Robbee had come upon me in an unguarded moment. I'd like to think that she saw me as I am. She certainly saw me as I was that evening.

Her email was just a paragraph, but it meant a great deal to me. She had given me a window into myself. I was still fully engaged. I still knew life was good. I was doing OK.

Why was I so moved by this chapter? As I read, I realized that I am not sure in the same circumstances, I would be able to pull off a similar, incredibly optimistic view of life. This man's inner strength has been amazing! And I know that it would not be come by easily.

I think it incredible that he was able to live in the state of acceptance and hope, that he so obviously did. This book is a revelation of hope and love and this man's fight for life.

Randy's love of his wife, family and life, will stay with me for a good long time. I am so very glad I read his book. And I am very saddened that he did not win against the cancer. His inspiration will live on though!

I want to leave it here with a quote from:

Chapter 59

Dreams for My Children.

“It pains me to think that when they are older, they won't have a father. When I cry in the shower, I'm not usually thinking, “I won't get to see them do this” or “I won't get to see them do that.” I'm thinking about the kids not having a father. I'm focused more on what they're going to lose than on what I am going to lose. Yes, a percentage of my sadness is, “I won't, I won't, I won't...” But a bigger part of me grieves for them. I keep thinking, “They won't...they won't...they won't.” That's what chews me up inside, when I let it.”


  1. I don't think I would be optimistic at all. I'd be hard to live with.

  2. Wow. I wouldn't be able to read this kind of book (unless I was diagnosed with cancel and trying to find a sense of acceptance), because it's just so sad. I got the worst lump in my throat reading this entry!


Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright

Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright
click on the photo for link

Flat Stanley near Castlemaine, Victoria.