Dear Randy Pausch,
I am sorry to hear about your pancreatic cancer, my best wishes to your family. Your book The Last Lecture was given to me for my birthday by my grandparents. They thought I would derive some information from your novel which may help me later in life, I imagine they thought I would learn a thing or two about religion. Good thing they didn’t actually read your book. I love my grandparents but I am not religious, previous presents from them included The Book of Mormon and The Holy Bible (both of which I seem to have misplaced), so when I opened my birthday present and saw your book…I didn’t think I would like it. I did read it. It was quirky, and made me smile but I never thought I would actually use most of the advice that lay within the pages.
This year, my grandfather, the very same one who gave me your novel, got esophagus cancer. I guess I should have seen it coming, he’s been coughing ever since I can remember. When I was three I used to think that a cough drop would magically fix it, I must have shoved hundreds of them down his throat a week. He even had a special cupboard for cough drops because he wanted me to feel like I was helping. But then again…no one is ever ready to be told a loved one has cancer. He underwent chemotherapy 8 months ago, it seemed like it was working. I don’t know if it ever did because the chemo was out of his system, his liver failed.
The doctor didn’t know how bad his condition was because the chemo was interfering with his charts. He was put on hospice and we were told he had 6 months left to live. At first I was sad. I thought, what if I never see my grandpa again? All those times I laughed and didn’t think about what he was trying to teach me because of my own irrational fear of religion, what if I don’t get to listen to one of those speeches again? Then I thought about you, after all, your book was the last present he gave me. I opened the page and read his note to me “To Tayvia, there are some words of wisdom here for you to treasure and use, I love you, Grandpa.” I thought about how you went through your cancer. You never let yourself get sad.
My family plans on visiting him this Christmas break. The only problem with this is…odds are that “visit” will be a funeral. The doctor said if we still plan to go, to buy refundable tickets. Because of this, my grandfather made a video for us. I haven’t watched it. I don’t know if I will ever watch it. In a way, his video is like your last lecture. Guess he’s one of those elephants in the room.
There wasn’t a specific line or piece of wisdom I took from your book. That isn’t the kind of story you wrote, it was the book itself that is comforting. You were at peace with what was happening to you, and the people around you came to accept it and they moved on. I’m sure your wife and children are doing well, when your daughter does start dating I’m sure she’ll watch very closely what guys do to her just like you suggested, your sons will chuckle at your football references and all of them will smile because they know that you are at peace. Reading this again, I know my grandfather is at peace. He will soon by with his God, and although I am not religious and I am not sure I’ll ever be able to become so, maybe I’ll talk to him sometimes. There has to be some shreds of truth in that religious babble, right? I know he’ll be sitting up there, drinking a cold glass of chocolate milk, waiting for his loved ones to join him. I never would have found this closure without reading your book. I’ll still cry, not at the funeral but alone in my room when everyone is asleep. I’ll go through that awkward period of denial, but once all that’s over I know he is at peace. Thank you so much for that.