This week I read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Pausch was a computer science/virtual reality professor who, at a very early age, learned he was dying from pancreatic cancer. He was offered the opportunity to give "a last lecture" at the college where he worked, Carnegie Mellon. Usually this is an opportunity for professors to tell their students what they would if they knew they were dying. Well, in Pausch's case, it was true.
He used this experience to give a talk on "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." And, this lecture turned into the book. Through a series of short pieces, or vignettes, Pausch describes his childhood, his role models, his experiences with science, his marriage and fatherhood. He uses the lecture and the book to send forth ideas and lessons he's learned, and to talk about what's really important in life.
As I was reading about his life, I thought about how much Pausch had done. He had FUN. He stuck his neck out for what he believed in. He fought for what he wanted, and in many cases he won. He led the kind of fulfilling life every day that we all want to lead.
Obviously, the book is also heartbreaking. He has three young children who will live life without their father. He has a very loving, understanding wife. It was very interesting to read about how they related to each other once they knew he was terminal. How she would still get mad at him if he didn't put his dishes away. Wouldn't that be a weird feeling to have? Just because you're dying doesn't mean you don't have to help around the house... Or, wait, no nevermind, you're dying so you shouldn't have to put the dishes away... I can't imagine the difficulty.
The book is fast to read. It'll make you laugh, cry and really think about life. And I know we all tend to say, "I'm going to live every day to its fullest," and then we go to work, go home, go to sleep... But, "to the fullest" doesn't have to mean excitement every day. Maybe it just means appreciating every day, and those important people who come with it.
"Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer." -- Randy Pausch (He passed away on July 25, 2008.)