The Last Lecture

In the April 6th issue of Parade Magazine, terminally ill professor Randy Pausch provides an excerpt from his last lecture: The Lessons I Am Leaving Behind Pausch writes, “At many colleges, professors are asked to give a “last lecture.” In this talk, they ruminate about what matters most to them. As they speak, audiences mull the same question: What wisdom would you impart to the world if you knew this was your last chance?”

Shortly after being asked to give such a lecture at Carnegie Mellon University where he is a professor in the computer sciences department, he found out that he had terminal pancreatic cancer. This lecture was no longer a hypothetical. Pausch is in his 40s, married to a woman he describes as the “woman of my dreams” and the father of three young children, ages 6, 3, and 1. This lecture would be not only his gift to the university but also his legacy for his children. In his lecture, he told his audience to “dream big, ask for what you want, dare to take a risk, look for the best in everybody, make time for what matters, and let kids be themselves.” It is all very good advice.

Reading about Randy Pausch made me wonder what I would say if I was in the same situation. If I knew I was dying soon, what lessons would I want to leave for my children? Here are a few of the things I would tell them:

1)Spend time with your own children.
If you are ever blessed with children of your own, remember that I was very rarely too busy to do something with you. I hope that you recall the hours we spent reading books on the couch or playing games, or simply spending time together. Enjoy your time with your own children, because childhood flies by all too quickly.

2)Love to learn
There are so many wonderful things to learn in this world. Never stop learning. The library and the internet are wonderful tools to help you find out more about whatever interests you. School is just a starting point. Your real classroom is the world.

3)Be Generous
There are so many who have less than we do. Always be generous with your time and your money.

4)and most importantly, Live Your Faith
God is the foundation of all that we are. Pray morning and night and during the day. Go to mass. Read your Bible. Connect with the one who made you. Follow the commandments – your life will be better for it.

The truth is, of course, that none of us have a guaranteed tomorrow. I read somewhere that death gives our days importance. We have a limited amount of time on this earth and we need to use it wisely. Each day we have the opportunity to pass on important lessons to our children by both what we say and what we do. Life is short. Randy Pausch’s last lecture is a good reminder to focus on what matters.

What lessons would you want to leave behind for your own children? Please leave a comment and share your wisdom!

– Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur


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