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Friday, July 25, 2008

In Honor of Randy Pausch

We suffered a loss today.
But it was also something we gained because of the pending loss.
Randy Pausch, professor at Carnegie Mellon University, loving father of 3 young children, beloved husband, son, and also a favored, inspiring teacher and shaper of minds, passed away today at 47.

I got to see part of Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture" on Oprah.
At Carnegie Mellon University they have a tradition of asking their professors to do a "Last Lecture" with the premise being "what would you say to your students if you knew it was your last chance".
A few weeks after being asked to give a "Last Lecture", Randy Pausch found out the Pancreatic Cancer he was in treatment for would put him in a unique position of truly presenting a Last Lecture.
I was impressed with the much shorter version of the Lecture he presented on Oprah;he gifted me with laughter, profound insight, hope, sorrow, and I went to look up the full lecture on YouTube.
It's hard to describe. It is important, and lovely, and funny, and amazing, and heartbreaking although in NO way is it maudlin or pitiful.
And it is a wondrous example of the absolute best of humanity.
It is a little over an hour long, but it is well worth your time.

Randy Pausch was only given 6 months to live last August. He passed that milestone in February, 2008. He beat the odds with an amazing 5 more months. And amazing months they were. This article does a nice summation of his life. As does this NPR tribute. Then there's Professor Pausch's own website/blog describing his adventures in Congress, in a Star Trek Movie, and in his family life.

I expect it's a little odd to mourn someone you don't actually know. I'm not the fanatical type - I'm no one's "fan". I admire people and their accomplishments and their gifts to the world. Randy Pausch was definitely a gift. So, I don't know this man, but I mourn his passing and I wish his family well. I feel the legacy he built for his children is an astoundingly good one. And we got to benefit from that legacy-gift.

It seems grossly unfair that such a man should suffer with this particular cancer at such a young age when his family and career was in full bloom. The "Why" question always visits me - as it does with any heartache or tragedy I have no control over. An answer sneaks in through the side to nudge me...I recognize that in this man's somewhat short life he achieved many of his dreams, inspired, educated, and even cured some ignorance in thousands of people - probably hundreds of thousands. Long before his cancer was diagnosed.
With the impetus of the cancer, he has inspired, educated and cured some ignorance in literally millions of people - around the world.
Is that a fair trade for ending his life so young and having to leave his loved ones behind and his children without a father? That is not a question I can answer.

But I can honor and share his memory, teachings, and the Last Lecture he created for his children - which has been a gift to us as well.
Blessings to the Pausch family. Heartfelt sorrow for your loss and grateful thanks to you for sharing your Son, Brother, Uncle, Husband, Father with us. Peace and loving, smiling memories to you always.

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