© Gaye Wilson 2008
Dr Randy Pausch, about whom I wrote in this post, died yesterday of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 47 years old. He left behind a wife, three small children and two major legacies: his academic work, and his famous Last Lecture.

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

Dr Pausch knew he was dying, and he prepared for it as well as he could. He got all his affairs in order, lived as well as he could physically and emotionally, and he created a legacy. He didn’t go down without a fight. He kept living, even though he was dying.

His Last Lecture has been seen by millions of people all over the world. It has been made into a book which has been translated into over 30 languages. His message was simple:

Live life while you have it. And leave a legacy of that life.

What about you?

What are you doing today to create a legacy?

What will you do tomorrow to enjoy life and help others to enjoy theirs?

What will you do next week that will have a positive impact upon the world around you?

There’s a Chinese proverb that is appropriate here:

Be not afraid of growing slowly.
Be afraid of standing still.

Thank you, Dr Pausch, for your life and your philosophy. My heart goes out to your family.

Donations can be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, 2141 Rosecrans Ave., Suite 7000, El Segundo, CA 90245, or to Carnegie Mellon’s Randy Pausch Memorial Fund (www.cmu.edu/giving/pausch). If you can’t donate to either of those, please donate what you can to any cancer research organisation near you.

© Gaye Wilson 2008
My neighbour died last week. It was totally unexpected. The family, obviously, is shattered.

So am I.

I discovered some interesting behaviour on my part the day I heard about his death. I went shopping – a normal, weekly grocery shop. But I found myself buying more – stuff – than usual. It was as if, the more stuff I brought home, the more it affirmed that I was still alive.

I bought a couple of books that would normally be out of my price range – but I might be dead tomorrow, and if I buy them now perhaps I’ll get the chance to read them before I go. I bought a bunch of magazines that I would normally only leaf through in the store. I bought some brightly coloured wool, with no particular pattern in mind, but I bought it because it was there, and bringing it home showed that I’m still here. It was as if the more stuff I have, the less chance I have of not being here to deal with it tomorrow.

That’s a strange reaction, and it surprised me.

What also surprised me was the depth of emotion I’m feeling. I didn’t know the neighbour well, but he was a reassuring presence every day as he drove past to or from work, and he had done some work on our property for us. Now he’s gone. The news shocked me to my core, and brought back memories of my father’s death two years ago. It’s as if the neighbour’s death was the catalyst for me to grieve all over again for my father.

But the biggest reaction I had was “What a waste”. Every time someone or something dies, the world is different. The person’s knowledge is lost, not to mention income, influence, skills¬†and a range of other things. How many people die each day, not having fulfilled their potential? (I’m not saying my neighbour was one of them.)

Death is the ultimate wake-up call. Over this past week, I’ve also been thinking about what I’m doing with my life. Am I filling each day with worthwhile actions? Am I happy? Do I make other people happy? Am I healthy? Am I doing everything I can to stay healthy so I can be on this planet for as long as possible? Am I achieving my goals? Am I passing on my knowledge?

Don’t let your knowledge die with you. Find ways to teach others what you have learnt.

Don’t let your song die with you. Share yourself and your talents with the world.

Become who you really want to be.

Do what you really want to do.

Coaches often suggest to clients that they think about their funeral. Who will be there? What will be said about you? What will be on your tombstone? What do you want your legacy to be? Once you know that, you can do whatever is needed to make it happen.

Start now. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Work out what you want, how to get it, and go for it. Get help.

Don’t wait until you hear of someone’s death before you start to live. You may not get another chance.

R.I.P. Bernie.