Lessons After the Last Lecture From Jai Pausch

PHOTO: Jai Pausch
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Jai Pausch is dreaming new dreams and rebuilding her life, one hour at a time. Jai wrote a novel about caring for her late husband, the famed Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who died in 2008 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Jai's book, "Dream New Dreams: Reimagining My Life After Loss," provides an intimate portrait of the family's journey through Randy's diagnosis, treatment, and death.

Randy Pausch's name ricocheted around the world after he delivered his famous Last Lecture at Carnegie Mellon to a packed hall. Randy talked about the importance of achieving childhood dreams despite tremendous obstacles.

"The brick walls are... there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the other people," he said.

In one of the most poignant moments in the lecture, Randy Pausch revealed his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and that he only had three to six months left to live. He then got down on the ground and did pushups in front of the stunned audience.

"I don't know how not to have fun. I'm dying and I'm having fun," he said.

So inspiring, the lecture rocketed around the world with over ten million downloads and a NYT bestselling book based on his talk. The book stayed on the bestseller list for 112 weeks, with almost five million copies sold, including a new enhanced ebook

Despite Randy's impossibly sunny attitude, his wife Jai describes in her book the difficulty in trying to cope with the cancer that would ultimately take Randy from her and their children.

"You never realize the tragedy that could befall you. And you think, like, 'this would be the worst thing that could happen to me...' And that's when you're fooled by how limited your imagination actually was. And something completely different, something completely worse."

The book is a sort of guidebook for caregivers, passing on intimate lessons learned from their experience.

"I first started writing it for me. For that person who had started off in this process of being a caretaker. Starting on this journey and looking back and thinking what I know now that I could pass on to her."

And the book details some of the darker moments in Jai's journey, the anger she felt towards her husband for what was happening to him and their family, and her own guilt.

"That's where I think we could step in and help caregivers and say it's normal to feel this way, it's okay to have resentment, it's okay to have anger."

Jai describes learning to care for herself, and learning when to let go and accept Randy's death. She remembers the advice one friend gave her.

"I have everything I need," she said.

Four years after Randy's death, the phenomenon of his life continues. Jai remembers the message her husband left with the world: there is magic that lives in us all.

"And I came to realize, after Randy had passed, that I had the ability to make magic, too... I have magic in me, too. And it didn't die like I thought."

A sunrise and a new day. Jai met a man online, a former submarine officer. The two recently married.

She writes, "...When a dream shatters, pick up the pieces and get a new one. It won't be the same as the broken one. But one can hope it will be as vibrant and exciting. I've had to give myself permission to let go of the old dreams."

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