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Living in the Face of Death

Living in the Face of Death

Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has pancreatic cancer—the same health diagnosis that Patrick Swayze and Connie Loughman are suffering from. His prognosis is not good, since the cancer has now spread to his liver. He lives every day knowing that it may be his last.

Hoping to go out on a high note, Pausch gave his last lecture to student and faculty at the university. Though he was speaking to friends, students and colleagues, his message seemed to resonate with exactly what it means to be human, be strong and to reach for a dream in the face of impending tragedy. He shared life lessons like, "No one is pure evil. Find the best in everybody," and "Never underestimate the importance of having fun. I'm dying and I'm having fun." The frankness and touching nature of his lecture not only inspired his students and school faculty, but he also inspired 6 million YouTube visitors, becoming an instant internet hit.

He has now written a book that was inspired by his last speech, titled The Last Lecture, which expands on some of his points and explains what drove him to give such a touching speech. He was reluctant at first to write the book, since he did have precious little time left on this planet and wanted to spend it with his family. But his wife encouraged him to do it and in the process he found it to be very cathartic. He worked with a co-author who did his best to turn Pausch's inspirational messages—often translated to him while Pausch was riding his bike—into a comprehensive book that would do justice to his life. Pausch didn't think he'd live to see the day that it would be published.

Throughout all this, Pausch admits that everything he has done was to reach his intended audience--his three children--who are unfortunately too young to fully comprehend the importance of his message. “Under the ruse of giving an academic lecture, I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children,” he writes in the book.

Through his book and his life, Pausch has shown that he could find the positive, even in a devastating health diagnosis. “I don’t want anyone to pity me or treat me like I’m already dead,” he told USA Today. “I’ve still got gas in the tank.” [USA Today]

Posted: 4/8/08