Tag Archives: Randy Pausch

Pausch passes: sense of humor intact

I wrote about Randy Pausch last week, but at that time I didn’t know the specifics about his death. I just knew he was a Unitarian Universalist. UUs are all about making THIS life THE life. Doing what needs to be done to make the world a better place – because living is about contributing, not about being saved in a future life (heaven?).  That was Dr. Pausch.

May we all be as joyful and skillful as he was at contributing. He sets a high bar.

Evidently he died with the same grace he with which lived. And with his sense of humor intact. From the NYTimes:

It probably comes as no surprise that the final words uttered by Dr. Pausch before his death last Friday from pancreatic cancer reflected the same humor and good nature that made him an Internet celebrity.

Last night, ABC aired a tribute to Dr. Pausch, replaying a Diane Sawyer special about his life and experiences that first aired in the spring. The segment also included new interviews with his close friend Steve Seabolt, who was with Randy during his final moments and noted that his “trademark wit and intellect were intact.’’

Mr. Seabolt only shared a few moments with viewers, noting that even near death, Dr. Pausch’s sense of humor remained. He said Dr. Pausch talked about how glad he was that he was home and his family and friend were close, and laughed, saying, “I just feel so bad about the dying part.”

Mr. Seabolt also relayed a conversation he had with Dr. Pausch’s 6-year-old son, Dylan. They were talking about cancer and he told the boy that “some problems can’t be solved, or they can’t be solved yet.’’

Dylan responded, “My daddy has taught me that every problem can be solved, and that I should believe that every problem can be solved, and that I’m strong enough and smart enough that I should never let a problem get in my way.”

At the end, as Dr. Pausch’s body was clearly failing, Mr. Seabolt said he told his friend, “It’s important for you to feel like you can let go. It’s okay.”

Dr. Pausch’s reply: “I’ll get back to you on that.’’

And those, according to Mr. Seabolt, were the final words of Randy Pausch.

Poking around a little more I came upon this further piece of wisdom from Pausch’s UU minister in Pittsburgh, quoted in an article by his book collaborator, Jeffrey Zaslow:

Early on, he had vowed to do the logistical things necessary to ease his family’s path into a life without him. His minister helped him think beyond estate planning and funeral arrangements. “You have life insurance, right?” the minister asked.

“Yes, it’s all in place,” Randy told him.

“Well, you also need emotional insurance,” the minister explained. The premiums for that insurance would be paid for with Randy’s time, not his money. The minister suggested that Randy spend hours making videotapes of himself with the kids. Years from now, they will be able to see how easily they touched each other and laughed together.

And he did just that.

Randy Pausch: Positive person, Unitarian Universalist – RIP

I think Unitarian Universalism offers the thinking caring person a wonderful spiritual home. But we are not evangelical (to our detriment…there are way too few of us) so I’m always happy to learn that some well-known person I deeply respect turns out to be a UU.

Unfortunately, in the case of folks like Christopher Reeve and Randy Pausch, they leave us too early. But at least they leave us with important lessons. Randy’s Last Lecture has been an internet phenomenon.  His message is typical UU: make the most of your time on earth, do good, love each other, follow your dreams. It’s about the here and now, not the hereafter.

Here’s the obituary from the denomination’s website, UUA.org which includes an interview they did with him last month.

In Memoriam: Randy Pausch, Unitarian Universalist,
Author of “The Last Lecture”

Randy Pausch, Computer Science Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, died on July 25 after a two-year struggle with pancreatic cancer. A Unitarian Universalist who first came to this faith as a member of the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), Pausch was 47 years old.

Celebrated in his field for co-founding the pioneering Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center and for creating the innovative educational software tool known as “Alice,” Pausch earned his greatest worldwide fame for his inspirational The Last Lecture which was subsequently published by Hyperion Books. Pausch was interviewed by UUA.org this past June.

UUA.org: The Last Lecture has been a huge bestseller, and you have subsequently received much public attention from Oprah Winfrey, ABC-TV, and more. You once said in an interview that you wrote this book to deliver a “message in a bottle” to your children. Surely you never imagined such publicity as you’ve received…how did all this happen?

Pausch: What’s happened is way beyond my imagination. It’s sort of a classic “viral internet” event; some of my colleagues could not be at the talk [given at Carnegie Mellon University] and asked if we would make the video available online. Jeff Zaslow of the Wall Street Journal wrote a column on it, and then it just took off. The thing that I find most gratifying is that people are telling me both the lecture and the book are helping them communicate with their own kids.

UUA.org: What is your religious background, and what is it about being a Unitarian Universalist that attracted you to this faith?

Pausch: I was raised Presbyterian and attended church regularly until I was about 17. I like the fact that [Unitarian Universalism] appeals to reason and thought more than dogma.

UUA.org: How important has faith been in your life? And what role did your congregation in Pittsburgh play as you have moved through your illness?

Pausch: That’s a hard question to answer; [but] I would say that the community of people who share our faith has been extremely important recently. The [Pittsburgh] congregation was very supportive; people brought meals, helped with our kids, and helped keep our spirits up. One member of the congregation has been just unbelievable: M.R. Kelsey has spent so much time with me when I’ve been sick, even after our move to Virginia.

UUA.org: You spent a bit of time being an “Imagineer” with the Disney organization. Disney’s slogan, you note, is, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” You seem like a very positive person…living that slogan. What might be possible for you at this time in your life, and what is it that you imagine?

Pausch: Well, I’m not opposed to miracles, so I still dream of some scenario where my disease is cured or goes away…. But I’m enough of a realist to know that’s very, very unlikely. So at this time in my life, what’s possible is spending as much time as possible with my family and minimizing my physical pain as we go through the endgame.

UUA.org: What are the things that bring you the most joy?

Pausch: Oh, my wife and children, without a doubt. All three of our kids are so young that each day they can do something they didn’t do yesterday, which is just so wonderful to be a part of.

UUA.org: You write, “No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse. At the same time, it is often within your power to make them better.” What is it—at this point in the journey—that gives you hope?

Pausch: Well, I see so much goodness in so many people, and that has really been intensified by this experience.

UUA.org: If you could influence such a thing, what would you want your legacy to be?

Pausch: That I was a good husband and father, and that I tried to live my life the best I could, and that I was able to help other people along the way.

Randy Pausch is survived by his wife, Jai, and their three children, Dylan, Logan and Chloe. Also surviving are his mother, Virginia Pausch of Columbia, Maryland, and a sister, Tamara Mason of Lynchburg, Virginia. The family plans a private burial in Virginia, where they relocated last fall. A memorial service on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University is also being planned, with details to be announced at a later date.

Donations in Pausch’s memory may be directed to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, 2141 Rosecrans Ave., Suite 7000, El Segundo, CA 90245, or to Carnegie Mellon’s Randy Pausch Memorial Fund, which primarily supports the university’s continued work on the Alice project.

Priorities – #2

Priority: a preferential rating- especially one that allocates rights to something in limited supply; something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives

Yesterday, in my paralyzed position of pain due to my pulled pectoral muscle (how’s that for a plethora of powerful P-words) I was forced to be a watcher instead of a doer.

I watched a video of the dying professor who looks so good, Randy Pausch, give one of his “last lectures” on time management at University of Virginia. He is a man who has the unenviable perspective of knowing that his days are numbered. (I know, I know. All our days are numbered, but we think our death will be decades or eons from now.)

Time is the most precious gift we have, he says. We must remember this. Over and over and over. Once a moment has passed, it’s gone forever.

I didn’t listen to the whole lecture, so I don’t know if he touches upon the Eckhart Tolle (Buddhist, Taoist, etc etc) mantra of being present to THIS moment instead of clinging to the past or fretting about the future.

But he did talk about setting priorities. What’s important? Why am I doing this? Does this matter? Is it on purpose?

I don’t know about you, but I find it pathetically easy to get lost in trivial pursuits. Reading stories in the news that are unimportant and have no bearing on my life. Rambling thru internet searches that are fascinating and purposeless. Phone calls that chit-chat on an on about nothing in particular. Meetings for the sake of meeting.

The other issue is that I complicate my life with more than an underfunded single woman past middle age can handle on her own:

  • A 3,000 sq ft home that needs cleaning, organizing, beautifying and occasional fixing
  • A 1/3 acre yard/garden that needs weeding, trimming, feeding, watering, re-organizing and occasional fixing.
  • A mind that is hungry for new learning and new experiences – and therefore continuously thinks up new projects to sink into.
  • A soul that is hungry for music, dance, beauty, connection, color, flowers, love.
  • Friends and family I love dearly – some of whom can only be visited by airplane.

I can’t do everything to my high standards. I probably can’t even do half of everything to my standards. Where do I cut back? What is my highest priority? What is the highest and best use of my time?

Since I’ve been a feng shui consultant I’ve become especially sensitive to clutter in my own home and have gotten rid of a lot of it. But what is left is still always talking to me: use me, put me away, fix me, spend time with me.

If I want to focus on priorities I need to majorly downsize. Or find a partner with whom to share the bounty and the work… It’s time to make downsizing a Project – a goal with specific steps.