Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Last Lecture

For those of you who haven't heard of Randy Pausch, let me describe him. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006, took all the hard core treatments and drugs and surgeries to extend his life for as long as possible. He married at age 39 and had three kids, loved his job as a tenured professor in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon and life was picture perfect, until the diagnosis. This guy really had life figured out, honestly. Although he wasn't religious, he knew that sweating the small stuff was emotionally immature and ridiculous. Just to prove it, when he bought a brand new car, he drove it over to his sister's house to take his neice and nephew for a ride. His sister cautioned, "Don't get Uncle Randy's car dirty, be very careful, wipe your feet before you get in..." While she was explaining herself, Randy opened a can of soda and dumped it all over the brand new upholstry in the back seat. The kids stood there with their mouths dropped to the ground. His reasoning, which I love and still trying to embrace, is that kids are kids, they get things dirty, and guess what...its not the end of the world! That weekend while driving his neice and nephew around, his nephew got a stomach bug and threw up all over the back seat, and I'm sure he would have felt worse about it if the can of soda hadn't christened it first! Isn't that a great lesson for all parents?

When he knew he couldn't work any longer and just needed to focus on his family the last months of his life, he was asked to give "The Last Lecture" as professors do when they retire and move on from the universities. I think it couldn't have been more appropriate. So they recorded his "Last Lecture" on video, and then it spread like wild fire all over the internet...and caught the attention of Diane Sawyer. She then followed him through the next year of his life and did a few interviews with him. He also put much of his wisdom and life experience into the book title so wonderfully, "The Last Lecture", of which I read this past week.

I saw the TV Special that aired the night he died, four weeks ago. It came on at 11:30 on a Friday night and for some reason I just never turned off the TV. As I watched and learned more about this guy, I became so emotional and touched that I couldn't stop crying!! At that point, I was happy to be up, alone, its nice not to have to explain your tears to anyone sometimes. I was immensely sad for him and his family, but impressed by his example and the battle that took his life, but not his attitude, or love for his family. Dealing with the pain and the tumors and the death sentence before him, he was still amazingly positive and content.

One of my favorite passages from his book, The Last Lecture:

Don't Complain, Just Work Harder
Too many people go through life complaining about their problems. I've always believed that if you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining, and applied it to solving the problem, you'd be surprised by how well things can work out.

I've known some terrific non-complainers in my life. One was Sandy Blatt, my landlord during graduate school. When he was a young man, a truck backed into him while he was unloading boxes into the cellar of a building. He toppled backwards down the steps and into the cellar. "How far was the fall?" I asked. His answer was simple: " Far enough." He spent the rest of his life as a quadriplegic.

Sandy had been a phenomenal athlete, and at the time of the accident, he was engaged to be married. He didn't want to be a burden to his fianc`ee so he told her, "You didn't sign on for this. I'll understand if you want to back out. You can go in peace." And she did

I met Sandy when he was in his thirties, and he justed wowed me with his attitude. He had this incredible non-whining aura about him. He had worked hard and become a licensed marriage counselor. He got married and adopted children. And when he talked about his medical issues, he did so matter-of-factly. He once explained to me that atempreature changes were hard on quadriplegics because they can't shiver. "Pass me that blanket, will you, Randy?" he'd say. And that was it.

I loved this book, it was hard to read, knowing he was dying, and that he or any doctor couldn't do anything about it. His attitude taught me so much...which is all you ever really have control over, your attitude!

1 comment:

Kaerlig said...

I really need to take that to heart. Especially the part about sweating the small stuff being ridiculous and immature. I must be infantile! Thanks Stacy for your post