by Raelene Gorlinsky
This is not the post I had planned for today. But I think it is relevant for the mission of this blog, because it is about the power of words - the way they can move us and inspire us.
I had, of course, seen many mentions of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon. He is now the "late" professor, although he was still alive when the book first came out this year. I kept meaning to buy it, but never quite did - it's a bit pricey. But I was in the bookstore today and the book was on sale. And I figured if I didn't like it, it would make a good Christmas gift for someone.
You know, people look at you oddly when you cry in public. I was waiting in a slow line at the pharmacy, so I opened the book I'd just bought and started to read. And to cry. I can't describe all the emotions in this book, although the transcendent one is the courage of the author. So I will let him tell you about the book in his own words, part of the Introduction:
I have an engineering problem.
While for the most part I'm in terrific physical shape, I have ten tumors in my liver and I have only a few months left to live.
I am a father of three young children, and married to the woman of my dreams. While I could easily feel sorry for myself, that wouldn't do them, or me, any good.
So, how to spend my very limited time?
The obvious part is being with, and taking care of, my family. While I still can, I embrace every moment with them, and do the logistical things necessary to ease their path into a life without me.
The less obvious part is how to teach my children what I would have taught them over the next twenty years. They are too young now to have those conversations. All parents want to teach their children right from wrong, what we think is important, and how to deal with the challenges life will bring. We also want them to know some stories from our own lives, often as a way to teach them how to lead theirs. My desire to do that led me to give a "last lecture" at Carnegie Mellon University.
These lectures are routinely videotaped. I knew what I was doing that day. Under the ruse of giving an academic lecture, I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children. If I were a painter, I would have painted for them. If I were a musician, I would have composed music. But I am a lecturer. So I lectured.
I lectured about the joy of life, about how much I appreciated life, even with so little of my own left. I talked about honesty, integrity, gratitude, and other things I hold dear. And I tried very hard not to be boring.
This computer science professor has an eloquence and emotional commitment that every author should admire. It would be fantastic if every fiction book (especially the romances) I read affected me as much. So, go read this book.