For the last six months or so, one of the first things I did upon coming into work on Sunday mornings was to check Randy Pausch’s update page. Randy Pausch, if you will remember, achieved worldwide notoriety last fall when the video of his “Last Lecture” hit the internet and the Wall Street Journal noticed. Having been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, Pausch, 47, gave a lecture entitled “Really Achieving your Childhood Dreams” to an audience at Carnegie Mellon University where he taught computer science. Well this morning I selected Randy’s site from my bookmarks menu but the page was very, very slow to load. Too slow. Sure enough, when the page refreshed, it contained the news that Randy passed away Friday due to complications from his disease.
What made Pausch’s story so compelling to me wasn’t merely that he was close to my age and, like me, the father of young children, nor was it merely the fellow feeling that most of us past and present cancer patients have for one another. Rather it was his infectiously positive yet humble attitude, the geeky fierceness of his appetite for life, and his charmed and seemingly bottomless capacity for extraordinary achievement that convinced me that pancreatic cancer didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell against this man, that this time death itself had fatally (ha!) miscalculated in even daring to touch someone so fresh and so vitally creative, so… Jedi. The Force was very, very strong in this one.
But I guess at the end of the day it’s never strong enough. And of course I knew that, in that cold, data processing part of my brain, and I’m certain Pausch did too. But I’d still like to think Randy made death a little nervous, if only for a couple of years, or even a couple of minutes.
You can check out the video of his famous “last lecture,” as well as videos of his lecture on time management and his cancer activism, here.
Pausch’s Update Page documenting his cancer battle is here.
Carnegie Mellon’s obituary of Randy is here.
Unlike thousands and thousands of very lucky people, I never knew Randy Pausch in life. But like tens of millions of almost as lucky people, I will never forget him.