The Lesson of a Lifetime

Like you, I have been following the story of Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch with both interest and empathy. If you are not familiar with the story, Dr. Pausch has been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. A husband and father of three small children, he has been given less than five months to live.

However, he has turned his death sentence into a way to teach others about the lessons life has to offer. His final on-campus lecture a few weeks ago filled the auditorium-type classroom – and he used humor and pulled some heartstrings in telling his story. His amazing attitude was showcased during an interview with Diane Sawyer recently on “Good Morning America”. Wednesday, “GMA” did a feature on the 12 hundred e-mails received commenting on Dr. Pausch. Finally, Diane came to town to help Dr. Pausch fulfill a lifelong dream: playing football with the Steelers. A piece you will see on WTAE in the coming days.

It’s obvious Dr. Pausch’s story has struck a nerve with the nation. You want to feel pity, but he does not want your charity. He looks at his impending death not with fear or worry, but with the acceptance of his limited days on Earth – and his desire to accomplish many things before he moves on.

For me, Dr. Pausch is without question the bravest man I have ever seen. Too often, we use courage when we speak of athletes and their achievements. However, Pausch is showing the kind of bravery that most athletes will never know.

With his impending death, Dr. Pausch also has something you and I will never have – freedom. He knows he will not be here and he is no longer restrained by the responsibilities that bind us all. Whether it’s a job, a mortgage or daily duties with family, we prevent ourselves from accomplishing what we truly want because we know there will be repercussions – and a future we must consider. Dr. Pausch no longer has to worry about that – and he can live life on his own terms. For him, that means giving his son’s memories to last a lifetime and providing his wife some final moments of love and tenderness.

Would I switch with Dr. Pausch – giving up my life for the freedom of knowing when my death would come and being able to fulfill my lifelong dreams? Probably not. Then again, I am not a brave man like Dr. Pausch. There are things I want to do in my life, but I am held down by earthly responsibilities. I wish I could be free of those and do what I truly dream of doing, but I am not brave enough to make that plunge. Perhaps that’s the lesson Dr. Pausch is teaching us: be brave and don’t be afraid.

Perhaps someday I will take that lesson to heart .. when I am brave enough to do so.

Thanks for the lesson, Dr. Pausch. It will not be forgotten.

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