Randy’s Last Lecture

Last Lecture Book Cover

Last Lecture Book Cover

When I purchased Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture in book form, I mentioned to the cashier how I played pick-up basketball with Randy while a campus minister at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).  She responded by sharing excitedly about the CMU Computer Science Professor’s book and interview with Diane Sawyer.  I asked her if she watched The Last Lecture.  She responded, No.  I encouraged her to do so.  Why?

1.   Randy was a dynamic, creative, and refreshing personality at CMU well before he faced pancreatic cancer.  His optimism in the face of tragedy was inspirational to many people.  And his legacy will continue to be influential for years to come.  In Randy’s lecture, entitled Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, you find a hopeful Tigger instead of an cynical Eeyore pushing his technological habitat forward with his last breath while at the same time leaving a legacy for his wife and children!

2.   Randy confronts head on the elephant in the room, i.e. his terminal cancer.  Passionate about honesty, he writes, If I could only give three words of advice, they would be “tell the truth.” If I got three more words, I’d add: “All the time.” My parents taught me that “you’re only as good as your word,” and there’s no better way to say it” (p. 163).  Note:  for Randy’s chronicling of his journey, check out his health update page.

3.  The Last Lecture stands out as a command performance, truly worthy of high regard in the genre, check out the various Last Lecture media links.

But as a follower of Christ who has faced his share of brick walls, including a personal struggle with intermediate grade mucoepidermoid carcinoma along with post-treatment health concerns and the death of my infant daughter Elise Faith; I find optimism alone to be lacking when facing life’s tragedies.  Although some hardships may, as Randy states, give us a chance to show us how much we want something because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people, I find that brick walls remind me that the world is not about me, that I depend upon Another (beyond family, community, financial resources, contacts, and memories), and I have been given One More Day to be a blessing to those around me.

I enjoyed my time on the basketball court with Randy, never-the-less I wish that I would have had One More Day to chat with him about facing brick walls not by one’s own will but through Christ Jesus.  If you have a moment as the new term begins, let me know your thoughts on The Last Lecture.

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Tom Grosh IV

Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the South Central PA Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). The Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine is the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!

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  • mikehickerson@gmail.com'
    Micheal Hickerson commented on September 5, 2008 Reply

    I had the good fortune of catching The Last Lecture on my local PBS station recently. I was extremely moved, and also challenged to regard the brick walls in my life differently. However, I wondered about the brick walls that don’t go away or that overcome you instead of vice versa.

    In Peterson’s Under the Unpredictable Plant, he writes about askesis, which he paraphrases as “voluntary disaster,” as a path to a deepened life. He writes:

    Why wait? Why wait for an accident, an illness, a failure? Why not take deliberate steps now to rid myself of the illusions of being a god, study the limits of my mortality, and sink myself into the quite marvelous but sin-obscured realities of creation and salvation?

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