The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Another hospital book club selection I wouldn't have chosen to read on my own is The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

I don't think anyone can hear about Pausch dying too soon and leaving behind a very young family without feeling saddened by their loss--and his. A caring parent wants to see his/her child/ren at least somewhat settled and established in life before leaving. I can only imagine how difficult leaving everything he wanted them to know about him behind in a taped lecture and a book instead of being there every day to show them who their father is and what he believes about life, helping to raise them, and just being there for them.

That being said, and certainly not to minimize his death, what an incredible opportunity to fully know and understand that your time is truly finite and limited. He had to go through every second with his wife and sons thinking how lucky he was to have them. Bittersweet, true, but savoring the little moments is something almost impossible for most people to do on a day-to-day basis. Mortality doesn't really seem real when you're young or middle-aged and relatively healthy.

My maternal grandmother died from pancreatic cancer at age 78. I can say that there probably isn't a worse way to die, with each day lasting forever for the ill person and the loved ones when the pain is bad. Even though my grandmother had lived a regular life and seen all of her grandchildren, there was something different after she was diagnosed. My mother wouldn't trade those days during her illness for anything because they had a chance to bond and be together in a way they weren't before her diagnosis. I think they understood each other in a completely new way.

You don't often think of cancer coming with a silver lining, but, if you can leave your child's life better, fuller, than you would have otherwise, there is no better silver lining.

As for the book itself, I enjoyed reading about some of the things Pausch did in his life, and I chuckled more than once. I certainly can't argue with any of the advice or general comments he offered. I also didn't find anything particularly novel or extraordinary in his work. Would a virtual cottage industry surrounding the lecture and book have been created without the charisma of Pausch and his lovely family and the fact that he died from pancreatic cancer? I don't think so. I think the lasting relevance of this work is for his family, and what else really matters, anyway?

My overall rating of The Last Lecture is a C+.


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