Randy Pausch

I sit here with a heavy heart. I’ve written about Randy Pausch in the past because of my Pittsburgh roots and his lecture that inspired  me, that inspired us. His subsequent book and his appearances on national talk shows about his amazing attitude only made his story and his life that much more incredibly inspiring… and now I hear Jack Johnson singing about “where have all the good people gone”? I know where one of them has gone and it’s with a tremendous amount of sadness that I write this.

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor whose final lecture inspired millions, has died of pancreatic cancer and that sucks. I know that it was inevitable, death is inevitable, but why does it have to happen to people that inspire us?

Dr. Pausch, had turned that “last lecture” into a book,  and often said that no one would be interested in his words of wisdom were he not a man in his 40s with a terminal illness.

Here for the last time for me, and for you is his lecture.

Last fall, Dr. Pausch delivered the lecture at Carnegie Mellon University. The lecture had attracted more than six million viewers. According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette  In the year preceding the lecture, he had gone through rounds of chemo and radiation and had documented it for all of us on his website., but he refused to give in to the fact that he was dying or feeling sorry for himself. On the contrary, he focused on the cancer, he blogged about it with constant updates. But also talked about how to fulfill childhood dreams and the lessons he learned on his life’s journey. he shared it all with us. Every bit of it. His life for us was now for all to see, as well as his death. If only all of us could have such an outlook on life, our lives, without the thought that death was near.

In May, Dr. Pausch spoke at the Carnegie Mellon University commencement. He said a friend and I quote the Post Gazette, had recently told him he was “beating the Grim Reaper” because it had now been nine months since his doctor told him he would die in six.

“But we don’t beat the Reaper by living longer. We beat the Reaper by living well,” said Dr. Pausch, who urged the graduates to find and pursue their passion. He put an exclamation point at the end of his remarks by kissing his wife, Jai, and carrying her off stage.

In New Orleans, where I was originally from, we celebrate someone’s life after they have passed with a jazz funeral. Yes, we mourn their passing initially in the jazz funeral, but then we finish with a resounding celebration of a person’s life. We can and should do that for Randy Pausch.