The Last Lecture
I was determined not to read The Last Lecture. I already knew the awful ending with author Randy Pausch dying from pancreatic cancer. I don’t like tear-jerkers and the thought of getting into something that I knew would make me cry was just too much for me. I had seen his heroic spirit on local and then national newscasts and that was enough for me.
Randy, a CMU professor and expert in virtual reality and computer programming, was diagnosed with cancer and was given only months to live. With a wife and three small children, he decided to give a “last lecture” he titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” He was brave enough to give this speech September 18, 2007 which was just one month after his diagnosis. But I was not yet brave enough to read it.
Then I heard Randy’s two local doctors speak at a local event. Dr Jim Moser and Dr Herb Zey had helped Randy after his diagnosis and talked about the brave spirit of so many pancreatic cancer patients and I became more curious. So reluctantly, I bought the book and prepared myself to become very depressed.
Instead, the book – co-written by Jeff Zaslow – was energizing and inspirational. I couldn’t put it down. I related right away to his wife, Jai, who did not want him to give this last lecture. She wanted to spend every last second of his life with him fully engaged with his family. But he wanted to leave something behind for his young children, Dylan, Logan, and Chloe. Something to teach them about their father’s personality, vision, and life’s lessons. What he wanted to share but would not get the chance. All the media attention was not planned. He only wanted to make sure it was videotaped to give a copy to his children. I began to understand what was going through the mind of a man with ten tumors on his liver who understood and embraced the fact he had three to six months to live …. so I kept reading.
Instead of focusing on regrets of what he should have done differently, he talked about the positives of his amazing life. How he turned his dreams into reality. He motivates readers to make their own dreams come true with examples from his own experience such as having specific goals, always bringing something to the table when negotiating, and learning to live with the hand you’re dealt rather than focusing on the cards other people are given.
Rather than crying, I began laughing at his hilarious stories (a hot air balloon dramatically whisked away he and his bride from their wedding only to somewhat crash land), sympathizing over his heartwarming stories (he almost lost his newborn who weighed 2lb. 15 oz.), and contemplating his lessons from the classroom (having to tell a bright but difficult student that his fellow classmates rated him bottom of the class for teamwork).
I also learned so much from his experiences in determination. Just as he made a childhood dream to work as an Imagineer at Walt Disney come true despite multiple obstacles, I began to think of my own dreams. As he floated in zero gravity through a NASA program despite the fact he kept being turned down, I was inspired not to be discouraged by someone telling me “no”.
This is much more than a book by a Pittsburgh author. This is a devotional for life and should be a must-read not only for Western Pennsylvanians but for everyone everywhere.The Last Lecture,