Seven years ago today, September 18, 2007, Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, stood before 400 colleagues and students to deliver his final lecture entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”
It was Randy’s last lecture as a professor because he was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer. On that day he was youthful, upbeat and vigorous. While he refused to wallow in self-pity, he spoke of how the cancer would eventually claim his life. Ten months later it did.
Randy Pausch knew his time was limited. Death was on the horizon. That is why he gave this lecture. He said it was not for himself, or the audience but for his three young children.
Pausch’s lecture became an internet sensation. He was interviewed by ABC’S Diane Sawyer, appeared on Oprah, and gave the commencement address to the 2008 graduating class at Carnegie Mellon. A few months prior to his death he released a book with the title The Last Lecture. I read the book a few years ago and found it to be a wonderful extension of his lecture on how to live life to the fullest.
The Last Lecture was on the New York Times best seller list in 2008 and continued into the summer of 2001 for 112 weeks. It has been translated into 48 languages and has sold more than 5 million copies in the United States. In the book he combines humor, inspiration and intelligence to share his wisdom and philosophy of life. “We cannot change the cards we are dealt,’ Randy says, “just how we play the hand.”
In the interview on Good Morning American, he told Diane Sawyer, “If I only had three words of advice it would be ‘tell the truth.’’ And if I had three more words, I would add ‘all the time.’” He observed that too many people don’t want to hear the truth, either about themselves or about life. Randy challenged his students to face the truth about themselves, their lives, their dreams, and their potential.
His lecture has been seen by millions on the internet. And his book will be read by millions more. But his experience is one shared by us all.
The Hebrew writer observed, “It is appointed to man once to die.” Sooner or later each of us will face the inevitable. That’s the truth. It may be sudden. Or we may live to a ripe old age. Our death may be accidental. Or we may die as a result of disease. We may have advance notice like Randy Pausch. Or it may happen in a flash.
What if you were told you only had six months to live? What would you do? What would you tell your wife? Your children? Your friends? If the elders gave you an opportunity to speak to your church-family, what would be your final words? What advice would you offer?
Could you with integrity say, “I have followed Jesus and He has made a difference in my life.”
What would the truth be about you? About your life? About your destiny?
Jesus’ final words on the cross were “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” He was going home. Back to the Father. His earthly struggle was over. They were words of relief. Reunion. And hope.
“When your time comes to die,” said the Shawnee leader, Tecumseh, “be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman