What if a doctor told you that you only had a few months left to live? When Randy Pausch, computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he decided to leave a powerful and timeless legacy. He delivered an inspiring last lecture at Carnegie Mellon (which was videotaped) and even wrote a book – both contained important life lessons.
At first his wife didn’t want him give the talk because he would need lots of time to prepare for it. She wanted him to spend all his limited time with her and their children. To make matters more upsetting, the talk was scheduled the day before her birthday. But he didn’t want to stop living just because he was dying. As he liked to say, “An injured lion still wants to roar.” Plus, he also wanted to give the talk for his children, who were very young during his last days and would barely have any memories of him if he didn’t do something to cement his legacy.
His last lecture was a way for him to teach his children everything he would’ve taught them if he had had more time. Sure, he could’ve just videotaped a personal message for his kids to see in the future but as he told his wife, “When parents tell children things, it doesn’t hurt to get some external validation. If I can get an audience to laugh and clap at the right time, maybe that would add gravitas to what I’m telling the kids.”
Randy Pausch was a humorous, intelligent and vibrant human being. At the very beginning of his last lecture, he said that even though he only had 3-6 months left to live, he was still in better shape than most of the audience. He proved his point by getting down on the floor and doing clapping push-ups.