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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