A touching memoir of grief.
The author is the widow of Randy Pausch, who wrote the bestseller The Last Lecture and died of pancreatic cancer in 2008. Far from being a mere add-on to her late husband’s book, this work stands on its own as an eloquent testimony of a caregiver. Pausch begins by recounting the beginnings of her relationship with her husband, a promising professor at Carnegie Mellon, while she was finishing a doctorate at the University of North Carolina. They married, started a family and were living a normal life when Randy was diagnosed with cancer. Despite surgery and chemotherapy, the cancer recurred, and his case was deemed terminal. The Last Lecture made Randy’s final months unusual, but the publication of the book and the activity regarding it are largely in the background of the overall story. With her husband’s death, the author was left to parent three young children and to find new direction in her life while in her early 40s. Pausch does an admirable job of narrating the story of her husband’s illness, death and its aftermath, keeping the reader continually engaged and drawn into her world. Most notably, Pausch manages to share her pain and heartache at an intensely personal level without ever sounding self-absorbed or asking for the reader’s pity. She makes it clear that her years of marriage and family life overshadow even the pain of losing her husband, and as the book closes, she focuses on the importance of rebuilding her life and, as she puts it, dreaming new dreams.
Readers familiar with cancer or with terminal illness in general will find a source of comfort and meaning in Pausch’s story, while others will take away a lesson in how people can endure in the face of anxiety and grief.