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We know that millions of people are grieving with you over the July 25th death of your husband from pancreatic cancer at age 47, and I trust this outpouring has helped see you —through these tough days. On behalf of American Vision, let me extend our condolences and sympathy on your loss. You’re flooded with mail and messages from near and far so I hope that, for now, you’ll remember to refer to this letter again soon or at least later on when life begins returning to normal, which it surely will.
Randy spent his last months often being preoccupied by what was nearly worldwide attention; something he would gladly have foregone in favor of the happier alternative of a long and healthy life with family and friends. His weekly diary, beginning in the fall of 2006 at the time of diagnosis, his famous Carnegie-Mellon University “last lecture to students” in September 2007 ten months before his death, his memorable October 2007 appearance on the Oprah show (circulated widely by YouTube), interviews with ABC, 20/20, and the writing of his book, The Last Lecture, all taken together, summarize how busy he was during his last 22 months. His hope was that much of what he recorded during that time would become a legacy treasure for his three young children (six, three, and two). It’s likely that, as teenagers and adults, their only memory of him will be what they’ll experience via the tapes, videos, internet, and written word he’s left behind.
He also shared his human reactions to what, sadly, was going to be a pre-announced death arriving way ahead of schedule. There would be no ideal scenario of “dying in bed at 95” for him. And, except for the cancer, he was clearly a very healthy person with good prospects for a long life as he proved by his strenuous biking and travel activities during the fall and winter of 2007 and 2008.
For now, however, whatever life-changing power Randy’s recorded legacy to his children (and to the rest of us) holds remains to be seen. It’s simply too early to know. But what we can grasp with assuredness, Mrs. Pausch—which is a bit ironic given Randy’s fame as compared to your much more modest profile throughout all this—is the powerful legacy-leaving potential that you personally hold in your hands at this very moment. The potential to bestow a far greater inspirational impact even from what he hoped to bequeath to the world. First, I’m guessing that your financial future may well be brighter than it is for most widows, especially compared with the typical case of today’s divorced mom with minimal alimony, several kids, and the absolute need to work full time. At least I hope that’s the case. If so, the potential I mentioned will be more readily open to you. So, please let me remind you of a life plan strategy that the Bible and proven Christian truths suggest can be rewarding for the Pausch family.
Although Randy in his last days was relatively silent about the spiritual side of things, there’s no doubt he was aware of and thinking about it. We all do, as thousands of written testimonies over the centuries verify; not just as we near death but throughout life. Being made by God and in His image, the spiritual is ever with us, urgently waiting to be addressed. It’s through the spiritual that our eternal souls communicate with Him, our Maker. Some seem better able to grasp the meaning of this all-important life dimension more deeply and earlier than others and are able to integrate the spiritual realities more effectively. They’re the lucky ones, as the Bible, especially as spelled out in Proverbs and the Psalms, vividly demonstrates. In fact, the homely but dynamic truth suggested in the full title of this article, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last,” is the life truth I hope your children will be learning from you.
I’m suggesting two things that I hope you may already know. Although it’s a tough time for you now, I’ll be praying that you soon find a good church with a biblically-trained, Christ-dedicated pastor. One who offers more than twelve minutes of shallow Sunday personal-advice platitudes or “fire and life insurance salvation” slogans (if he even does that), often used as a synonym for “The Gospel.” I hope you’ll resist the lure of the “church growth,” “seeker-friendly,” “new-age/emergent” church movements. They offer a thin gruel, an imitation of the real thing. It will be spiritually unsatisfying for you. As your pastor, look for a church with a man having a zeal for advancing God’s kingdom in an age where church pessimists think total societal moral collapse is inevitable. Do so on behalf of your very soon-to-be-adult children and on behalf of theirs—your grandkids.
Above all, take the increasingly accepted and exciting step of training your kids at home. Protect them from the public schools as if these failed monuments of brick and plastic were collapsing ruins, engulfed in flames with noxious gases spewing out to infect entire communities. Not only that, with Randy having suddenly “disappeared,” all three, as adults, are apt to be haunted by the abandonment and rejection syndrome because such is the early interpretive way of kids. So other than normal outings away from home for assorted visits, etc., they need you now all the time more than ever. Kids possess no inborn DNA mechanism which signals them, at age four or five, that it’s time to leave their homes to be institutionalized in government holding pens. Give them the caring security they need by becoming not just two parents, as you’ll need to be, but also their loving, full-time mentor. It’s what they want even though they can’t express it.
Best of all, as you are enjoying teaching them to read (the key to much of your challenge) you’ll also be able to integrate the fulfillment of your spiritual obligations. While at home with the reading, arithmetic, writing, the fun and the bonding, you’ll also be able to tell them that death comes to us all and that the time to get ready for it is now. Doing so also happens to be the best way to get ready to live. Sharing this with them is the legacy of legacies you’ll have a chance to impart because, in the end, it’s not about mom, dad, their friends or their material acquisitions. It’s about Christ; the Father, the Creator, the Reason. It’s about advancing His kingdom for the greater good, not just of the Pausch kids, but for all of us. Only what’s done for Him will last. Teach them that. Convince them of it. Help them discover their God-given gifts, skills and talents so that, marriage-wise, service-wise and vocation-wise these gifts can be put to best and happiest use.
If you re-marry, and why shouldn’t you for your sake and for theirs?, I’ll be praying you’ll put this new person’s readily seen Christian qualifications at the top of your priority list. The right man would also want you to have that same mindset. When you find each other your kids will be the grateful beneficiaries as will you. God bless you.