At Death’s Door: Randy Pausch Gives His Final Lecture on The Process of Dying

At Death’s Door: Living in the Process of Dying

Randy Pausch didn’t want his last lecture to be about dying. But he is, sadly, dying of pancreatic cancer, and he knows that it’s a painful way to die. Nevertheless, when he walked up to the podium last month to address more than 450 colleagues, students, and friends at Carnegie Mellon University, he intended to demonstrate that his focus remains, as it always has been, on living. So he did a couple of one-handed push-ups, sprinkled his remarks with jokes, donned props including a Mad Hatter hat, and generally showed that one way to cheat death is to laugh in its face.

Mr. Pausch is a 46-year-old professor of computer science and the co-founder of Carnegie-Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. He agreed to give the talk in part so that his three young children, ages 5, 2, and 1, could one day hear his message, on “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. Sure, he could have just delivered the advice in front of a video camera at home, and he thought about taking that route, but he felt that an audience would lend his message greater weight. “A couple of hundred people in a room, looking and listening and laughing and applauding, hopefully at the appropriate times, that gives a lot of validation to my kids that a lot of people believe in this, and a lot of people who knew me believe that I did my best to try to live this way,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Professor Pausch said that it was the most difficult talk he ever wrote, and he’s known to be a creative speaker. The lecture, or drama, is told in three acts. Act I: Mr. Pausch’s childhood dreams, and how he managed to achieve a number of big ones, like designing rides for Disney World and taking a trip in zero gravity. Act II: How to enable the dreams of others, a section peppered with self-deprecating stories of how his mentors steered him from arrogance to becoming a mentor himself. Act III: How to achieve your dreams and help others, in which he entreats parents everywhere to loosen up and let their children paint their bedrooms, as Mr. Pausch was allowed to do as a kid (he painted quadratic equations).

Randy Pausch’s Final Lecture: Living in the Process of Dying

A Professor’s Lifetime Lessons: One Man’s Dignity and Courage

Interested readers will find a more detailed article in The Wall Street Journal, which can be accessed here.

Another wonderful article appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which readers can access here.

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8 Responses to “At Death’s Door: Randy Pausch Gives His Final Lecture on The Process of Dying”

  1. Randy Pausch Visits Oprah: A Lecture on Living « Et Cetera: Publick and Privat Curiosities Says:

    […] Randy Pausch didn’t want his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University to be about dying, but he is, sadly, dying of pancreatic cancer.  He knows it’s a painful way to go.  When he gave his final lecture last month, he wanted to demonstrate that his focus remains, as always, on living, or on living in the process of dying.  Today, he appeared on The Oprah Winphrey Show, and this is what he had to say: […]

  2. Liz Neal Says:

    Randy,
    Your lecture was amazing. You showed so much strength and wonderful attitude. We had three infants with malignant brain cancer who were supposed to die within months. One was 3 months, one 1 month and another 18 months. The 3 month old had an extremely large tumor and was given a week or two to live if she didn’t have surgery and a 1% chance of surviving surgery. She is now 22 and has a 4.0 gpa. The 1 month old has had multiple surgeries and is 15, almost 16. The 18 month old had multiple surgeries and is now 24. Jesus healed all three of them when they were given a death sentence. We looked up in the Old and New Testament and found where God and/or Jesus healed others and stood on His promises because we are Christians. He is truly amazing and has been faithful to us the past 22 years.
    Cancer doesn’t have to mean it is a death sentence.

  3. Alicia Acuna-wolfe Says:

    Professor Randy, You are my hero and you gave me the strength to move forward with my life. I am almost sixty and work as a Calif. State Parole Agent. Lately, I have been thinking that I am too old for law enforcement work; you know the the running and chasing of the bad guys. Basically after listening to you talk about how you are facing your crises and the strength with a positive insite and how you believe in your Self, and that God will heal you. I felt guilty and sad with myself. You made me want to dance and keep your strength and love and courage with in me. I am not old I am a young sixty woman who can still out run the bad guys. You have inspired me to keep the faith and move on to the next level of my life and stay in my profession. I loved to watch you speak and enjoy your simple plan of life. Watching you and your wonderful wife was also inspiring. I also want to thank your wife for her showing the young women and me how to love her husband and children to the fullist. You two are refreshing and I am so thankful to both of you. I am going to pray for you and your family. I feel that you two are my friends and teachers of life. You have been blessed by god and he is talking through You. Again I want to say Thank You and Your Wife. “Life is What You Make of It”

    Sincerely,
    Alicia

  4. Frances Says:

    Hi Randy,

    I must say I was very touched by your speech. I watched it on Oprah yesterday and later went online to watch the one you did at the school.
    1 thing i noticed in your interview with Dr…. was you were open to miracles so you could stay long to watch your kids grow.
    I know this would sound strange but i have met people who were healed from all kinds of cancer and other incurable diseases. So since you are willing to try please check this website about a healing school in South AFrica which costs you absolutely nothing.(Free of Charge).
    http://www.christembassyhealingschool.org/
    I was particularly moved to send this in because i lost a friend’s mom to breast cancer and was too shy to tell her about it.
    Please dont disregard this like one of those junk mails. Go to the website and see for yourself.
    You have been an inspiration to many including me.
    Stay blessed.

    Frances,
    Port Harcourt, Nigeria

  5. a person Says:

    Hi Randy
    Do not worry. Being diagnosed with cancer does not have to be a death sentence. I’ve heard of people who were supposed to die within day of birth. Most of those people are now perfectly healthy adults. God doesn’t turn his back on his children. If it is God’s will for you to die, then you will, but it will not be in vain and you will not be forgotten. Your last lecture was an inspiration to me, and I have been working to undo or fix all of the wrongs that I have done. So thank you very very much for being an inspiration to people all over the world. Maybe you will not die after all, because like i said before there have been people who were suppose to die and didn’t because of God. Hopefully you will beone of those people. After all who else will be as great of a father to your boys.

    Praying for you,
    A concerned viewer,
    ELIZABETH
    Benin, Nigeria

  6. Reflections of a Rare Bird « Et Cetera: Publick and Privat Curiosities Says:

    […] about Professor Randy Pausch’s last lecture at Carnegie-Mellon University, his now well-known Final Lecture: Living in the Process of Dying, details about and videos of which can be viewed here and […]

  7. Kathyrn Roy Says:

    Randy: I watched you speak on Oprah. You are a very brave man.

    I have suffered for years with Anxiety, being afraid of everything especially getting sick and leaving my 2 kids who are 4 and 7.

    After your speech I promise that I will try to be strong and not be afraid of life soo much. Your speech made me realize that we have to live for today and we cannot fear tomorrow. Your speech made me realize just how lucky I am to be 43 and have 2 beautiful kids who are my life.

    God bless you and your family.
    My thoughts are truly with you.
    I too believe that you are talking through God.

    Kathy Roy.

  8. Randy Pausch Dies at the Age of 47 « Et Cetera: Publick and Privat Curiosities Says:

    […] Randy Pausch didn’t want his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University to be about dying, but he was, sadly, dying of pancreatic cancer. He knew that it’s a painful way to go. When he gave his final lecture at Carnegie-Mellon, he wanted to demonstrate that his focus remained, as always, on living, or on living in the process of dying. When he appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, this is what he had to say: […]


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