Archive for the ‘Mortality’ Category

The Professor’s Last Lecture

Posted: October 3, 2007 by Doc in Mortality, Videos

As physicians, we have seen our share of suffering and death. While we may be able to relieve some of the physical pain that illness brings, we are rarely as adept in helping our patients cope with the emotional and psychological consequences of a devastating illness. To a physician, death signifies failure, even though it is inevitable for all of us.
It is said that the moment when we are faced with our mortality is the moment when our true self is revealed. Professor Pausch, whose story is told below, is all the more extraordinary and inspiring for his grace and serenity. He is a teacher who loves life, teaching, and his students and it is fitting that one of his final acts is to share the ultimate “teachable moment”.

from ABC News:
Randy Pausch, a 46-year-old computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has terminal cancer and expects to live for just a few more months.

This week, he said goodbye to his students and the Pittsburgh college with one last lecture called “How to Live Your Childhood Dreams,” on his life’s journey and the lessons he’s learned.
The Wall Street Journal called it “the lecture of a lifetime” and those who have seen it have more than agreed.

A beloved professor at Carnegie Mellon, Pausch got a standing ovation from the 400-member audience before he even opened his mouth.

“Make me earn it,” he told them.

No Self-Pity
Pausch, a father of three, talked about his battle with pancreatic cancer. “So in case there is anyone in the room who wandered in and didn’t know my back story, my dad always said, ‘If there is an elephant in the room, introduce him,'” Pausch said in the lecture.

“If you look at my [CT] scan, there are approximately 10 tumors in my liver. The doctors told me I had three to six months of good health left. That was a month ago so you can do the math.”

The diagnosis was a grim reality, but Pausch doesn’t do grim and he doesn’t do self-pity.

“I’ve never understood pity and self-pity as an emotion,” Pausch told Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America” today. “We have a finite amount of time. Whether short or long, it doesn’t matter. Life is to be lived.”

The lecture is filled with jokes.

“We’re not going to talk about spirituality and religion. Although I will tell you that I have experienced a deathbed conversion. I just bought a Macintosh. … Now I know I’d get 9 percent of the audience with that,” Pausch said.

He also told the audience he was in “phenomenally good health” at the moment and even did a round of one-handed push-ups to prove it.

Patience Rewarded
Pausch said he looked back at family photos and saw that when he was a kid, he was smiling in every picture.

“So what were my childhood dreams? You may not agree with this list, but I was there. Being in zero gravity, playing in the National Football League, authoring an article in the World Book Encyclopedia. I guess you can tell the nerds early,” he said in the lecture.

Though he achieved most of his childhood dreams, Pausch flashed his rejection letters on a screen and talked about career setbacks: “Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls aren’t there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show us how badly we want things.”

Pausch says he’s not afraid of death, but does worry about the process of dying.

“Well the particular way I’m going to die is not going to be particularly pleasant. It will probably be physically uncomfortable and it won’t be an easy thing for my wife and kids to watch,” Pausch told Sawyer. “I think it will be a real challenge to see if I can squeeze the lemons hard enough to still get lemonade the last few weeks.”

But Pausch said in the face of adversity, don’t complain, just work harder. Your patience, he says, will eventually be rewarded.

“You know, life is a gift,” Pausch told Sawyer. “Again, it sounds trite, but if you wait long enough, other people will show you their good side. If there’s anything I’ve [learned] that is absolutely true. Sometimes it takes a lot longer than you might like. But the onus is on you to keep the hope and keep waiting.”

From the Wall Street Journal:

Here is video of Professor Pausch’s full lecture: