Jun 27, 2008  •  In Books, Reviews, Touching

Book Review: The Last Lecture

Despite the fact that I love to babble on and on in my writing, I’m a pretty reserved person in real life. I am hardly the one to wear my heart on a sleeve…heck even my voice is pretty monotone!

But lately I’ve been a emotional wreck.

Everything ticks me off.

Sappy commercial? Eyes well up in tears. Touching YouTube video? Repeat views. A sad movie or a great book? Open the floodgates, people!

And a few nights ago, J woke to his wife shaking and sobbing on the bed next to him.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s this…stupid…book…”

As he rolled his eyes and recommenced snoring, I managed to muster up enough willpower to finish the book, because I knew the ending would make me cry even more.

That book was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

I had seen Dr Pausch’s Last Lecture and heard about the book before it was released. Dr Pausch was a very active member of the association for which I work, having received various awards, citations, and distinctions. I unfortunately never had the pleasure of meeting him, but I did do a bit of marketing work for his now-famous lecture when it was first delivered.

The book was released in early April, but I didn’t read it until now. I think a part of me knew that it would turn me into a sobbing little girl…and so I had tried to hold it off for as long as possible.

Dr Pausch has lived an incredible life. He never made it to the NFL, but he experienced zero gravity at a NASA facility. He has inspired and mentored countless students, helping them find and achieve their dreams (such as the one student who aspired to work on the next Star Wars film at a time when no one could predict if or when episodes 1-3 would be made). He has worked with Adobe, Google, EA, and Disney. He created Alice, and co-pioneered ETC.

Dr Pausch is also dying of pancreatic cancer.

Some of the advice given by Pausch are the type that we’ve heard all our lives. “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

Others hit me hard. One such advice, which he gives to his eighteen-month old daughter (as well as to his sons) for future reference is, “When it comes to men who are romantically interested in you, it’s really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do.” How true! How many times have I waited by the phone, lost sleep, and shed tears over some smooth-talking jerk who’s all talk and no walk? I only wish someone had told me this sooner.

I smiled as I read the chapter devoted to meeting his wife. I wondered if anyone will ever write me with such love.

I laughed as I read him pouring an entire can of soda all over the backseat of his new car in an effort to ease his niece and nephew’s nervousness.

I bawled as he described the things he would say to his kids, had they been old enough to understand what he said.

I won’t reveal any more. All I can say is that this is a lesson-learning, life-evaluating, life-LOVING book.

Last week, my company hosted its annual awards banquet, where Dr Pausch was among the list of honorees. He was not able to make it to San Francisco, and a representative from Carnegie Mellon accepted the award on his behalf.

I immediately googled Dr Pausch’s prognosis. As of June 26th, he is in slow recovery mode. You can find is blog and health report here.

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