Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dying man’s lessons on how to live


Ihad a fantastic Mexican lunch at La Frontera the other day with my sister’s barka

da. What fun. Most of the ladies ordered frozen margaritas. They looked delicious served in big beautiful blue-rimmed glasses. We came in four cars and the designated drivers nursed their drinks. Sad but true, my margarita days are over.

We were a dozen ladies; average age around 80, 10 were Republican­s, one a Democrat, and I. Politics was not one of our topics of conversati­on. Very smart.

People can get unreasonab­le and nasty when discussing politics. In the US, like it is at home, people still have not gotten used to the “surprises” of 2016 when the “most unlikely” took office. Families that were torn apart remain in near chaos. Tempers are still testy on Facebook, have you noticed?

I can see, however, that quite a number have adjusted and even adhered to the new order; while others seem still stunned and totally out of sorts with the outcome. Sometimes reality is hard to swallow. The pill is too bitter. Humble pie is unpalatabl­e.

If it were not so sad, it would be hysterical­ly funny to listen to the dissertati­ons of the winners as they work to eliminate any vestige of what the “also-rans” have left behind. It does not matter if it was for the good. Out it goes. What a waste.


I came across a video of a talk given in 2007 by Randy Pausch, a bright young educator from Carnegie Mellon University, who at the time had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and had only a few months left to live. He died 10 months later.

Instead of complainin­g about his sorry lot, Pausch delivered what he called The Last Lecture. His talk went viral.

“I cannot change the hand that I have been dealt. But I can certainly decide on how to play them.”

His statement becomes profound the more you think about it. While others would be maudlin and depressing, blam- ing life and circumstan­ce for their misfortune, Pausch was not about to waste his remaining time seeking explanatio­ns or trying to get people’s sympathy.

He proceeded instead to teach us how to live. Most of his talk is about remaining enthusiast­ic, and “bringing something to the table.”

He bids us not to underestim­ate the importance of having fun. And not to misinterpr­et someone who rides us hard, at the job, at home.

“When someone rides you hard and tells you how badly you are doing, it’s because that person cares. When no one tells you, it only means they have given up on you.”

He reminds us to keep on, that there is a lot to be learned just by trying. He talks about focus; that enthusiasm is important.

Pausch wore many hats during his career. One was with the Imagineeri­ng team for Disney. He helped build virtual worlds and was immersed in helping millions of kids have fun while learning something hard.

As I listened to the lecture, I imagined that this young man must have had extraordin­ary parents, who taught him to be giving, generous, self-reflective like they were, and who allowed him to explore what he was all about as a person, as a dreamer.

I share his words in bold italics.

“Watching man land on the moon made me believe that ‘anything is possible.’” And he grew up wanting to “make the magic” admonishin­g us not to give up dreaming, at any age.

Lessons learned

Toward the end of the lecture, Pausch talks about “lessons learned.” Remind me one of these days to make my own list. It matters.

“Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.” He learned that no one person is all bad. He taught us to:

“Find the best in everybody. You may have to wait a long time but people will show you their good side. Be prepared; they may even surprise and impress you.”

I particular­ly like that one. We are so quick to judge; so final in slamming the door in someone’s face.

Never lose your childlike wonder. It is what drives us. Help others, always.

Loyalty is a two-way street.

Let’s think about this for a minute.

His advice to women: “When it comes to men romantical­ly interested in you, ignore what they say. Pay attention to what they do.”

There are moments that change your life.

You are blessed if you recognize them.

I ask: How many life-changers have we missed?

Paush talked about rejection from the world and our peers. He said:

“Allow it to inspire you. Don’t complain. Just work harder. The brick walls that we encounter are not meant to keep us out; they are there to show us how much we want it.”

Be grateful. Gratitude is a powerful thing.

Learn the difference between people and things.

This is important. Remember you can buy and replace things. Not people. Today?

Is that laughter I hear?

Live with integrity. Tell the truth. Always. Apologize. There are three parts in a genuine apology. I am sorry. It was my fault. How can I make it right?

When Pausch ended his Last Lecture, he humbly accepted the applause of the audience. But before he left the stage he said: “This was really not for you. This was for my children.”

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