Randy Pauch lost his battle with Pancreatic Cancer today. You may remember him from the video of his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University that was posted on YouTube. Or his widely available book from The Last Lecture. Or you may simply remember him as a dying father trying to leave as much of himself for his young children as he could.
Many, if not all of us on MWC, have heard at one time or another how gracefully we have handled the hurdles life has thrown in our way. I am no exception. Yet I have never spoken so elequently about the important things in life, view those things so clearly, nor taken the time to preserve them for my future generations as Randy Pauch. I first saw him on Oprah one afternoon. I was immediately struck by how calmly he spoke of his own impending death. I’m sure we can all relate to that calloused-over feeling that can creep up on a cancer patient from time to time. When a topic has been re-hashed so many times that it ceases to be your life or death but instead a list of facts and statistics with variables and probabilities. I recognized that characteristic in him that day for all his smiles and jokes. Until…
Until he was asked about his children. The chink in his armour. And he knew it. Mr. Pauch said as much when he declined to talk about them. “I’m only human. And the thought of leaving them…” I don’t remember exactly what he said but the sentiment was obvious.
When I think about dying it’s the only thing that makes me want to cry, too. During chemo I could talk about cancer all day long. I could talk about dying, death, funerals, Daddy-O remarrying, life insurance, hospice, mastectomies, saying good-bye to friends, etc., etc. But let one mention of my babies come into the conversation and the waterworks began. I immediately felt like running from the room. Oh, I wouldn’t have talked about my kids on Oprah, either. No way.
How painful to leave one’s children knowing they are far, far too young to remember you. My own Dad died when I was 14. I have some pretty good memories of him but they get fainter every year. Sometimes I wonder if they are even memories at all or just photographs I’ve seen and a child’s imagination to go with them. Oh, how I would dearly love to have his words to read. His thoughts, hopes and dreams.
This is the gift that Randy Pauch left for his children. For his wife. For the world.
God’s speed, Randy.