What would you do if you knew that you only had a few months left to live?
I’ve been posed this question hypothetically a few times in my life and I’m pretty sure that my answers have varied every time I’ve tried to answer it. I might quit my job and have a one-on-one conversation with every person that I care about. Let them know how much they’ve meant to me, how much I love them, how short life is… and perhaps encourage them to seize the moment. I might completely withdraw. Sell all my possessions and give away the proceeds. Go off to the woods and sit in a cabin.
Who knows what I would really do? Interestingly, I’ve had a couple of dreams where I was in that exact scenario. I don’t remember the specifics of what I did, but I remember a deep grief settling in my heart, unlike anything else I’ve ever known, and an urgency to tell people that I love them. It’s a strange reaction, not because it’s an uncommon one, but because I have always gone around touting that I do not fear death and in fact, embrace that it’s a reality of life. The hope of an afterlife also reduces the sting of death. But I remember just being very, very sad in my dream.
About a month ago, I stumbled upon a YouTube video from Carnegie Mellon University. CMU has a series called, “Last Lecture”, where it asks professors to give a presentation as if it were his/her last lecture ever (hence, the title, “Last Lecture”). In September 2007, CMU professor Randy Pausch gave his last lecture, entitled “Achieving Your Childhood Dreams“. The one minor fact being, his doctors had just given him just a few months to live, diagnosing him with terminal cancer. The series, “Last Lecture”, took on an entirely new meaning.
I’m not a big fan of YouTube videos and I can’t say that this lecture was the best one that I’ve ever seen. It’s over an hour long and there are elements to the lecture that I don’t quite understand in its entirety because he references a lot of technological details that are a part of his profession. However, the mere fact that this was his true-to-life last lecture made the lecture incredibly poignant and compelling, not to mention, electric and emotional. I actually haven’t been able to stop thinking about some of things he said. The most memorable concept that continues to ring in my mind is, It’s wonderful to achieve your childhood dreams, but you’ll find out that it’s even more gratifying to help others achieve their dreams.
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr. left this country with not just a movement of civil rights but an incomparable and lasting legacy that continues to make huge waves through the modern day. He had a dream. And though he was not able to realize his dream during his lifetime, he did so much to help realize the dreams of all those who came after him.
Martin Luther King, Jr. died on April 4, 1968.
Randy Pausch died on July 25, 2008.
Let us be inspired to pursue our dreams and help realize the dreams of others.