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Randy Pausch gave dying a happy face

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God bless you.

A very small part of me felt sad when Dr. Randy Pausch, 47, died Friday from pancreatic cancer.

But a much larger part rejoiced because of the heroic, even happy way, he went about dying.

All of us yet-surviving cancer patients can take heart from Pausch. He did not depart cursing God, feeling sorry for himself or claiming he had been cheated. I've seen older people, some blessed to live twice Randy's age and suffer half his adversity, accuse God of cheating them and use their last breath to whine sympathy out of anybody willing to listen.

Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist, husband, father of three and a pioneer of virtual reality research, indeed gave us the truest example of a virtual reality drama that so many TV farces are mocking in pitiful fashion.

Pausch's reality was viciously virtual. He was really fighting for his life ever since he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September, 2006. Then, last September, doctors told him he had only about six months to live. He responded by taping his world-famous "Last Lecture," in which he summed up a life so well lived that he would not be cheated by death,and then he teamed with writer Jeffrey Zaslow for 53 days to write his $6 million best seller, "The Last Lecture."

I have been blessed because my three health challenges--brain cancer, prostate cancer and end-stage congestive heart failure--don't total the severity of Pausch's pancreatic cancer, considered to be the deadliest of cancers.

I am also blessed that my prognosis for recovery are more promising, thanks to God's healing grace, faith, prayer and the care of physicians. The fact that Pausch refused to go softly and quietly into that endless night is a profound lesson for the living. The maturity and the quality of the ways we live will pretty much dictate the dignity and discipline with which we die.

Pausch, who rejoiced that he had achieved most of his childhood dreams, chose to die in the open, pretty much the way I have chosen to fight my health issues through this public blog through God's healing grace.

I thank God that He blessed Pausch to live five months longer than doctors had predicted. I also thank God that He blessed Senator Edward Kennedy to undergo brain cancer that is lengthening his life after his preliminary diagnosis was most dire.

I hope, just as Pausch, Kennedy and so many other brave cancer patients hope, that our courage to fight against, rather than take flight from, our afflictions can inspire others to do the same.

Just as Pausch said about his life, I am already abundantly blessed to have known the joy of living a good life, the accomplishment of overcoming childhood poverty, the love of a sweet wife of 40 years, of three daughters and five grandchildren. Most of all, in Black Baptist parlance, I've been to the river, I've been baptized, soul's been converted, I'm on my way to heaven and I'm so glad that this mean world can't do me any harm.

To you who are well and are often prone to brag about never having spent a night in a hospital, you should stop bragging and starting thanking and praising God. Suffering time may be headed to your house sooner than you think.

I wish my dear mother, Sarah Loraine Banks, had been blessed with a miracle that could have spared her a painful death from blood poisoning from child bearing at age 42. If not for, among other things, Mississippi's racial discrimination of health care in the early '50s, my mother could have been saved.

The same for my twin sons, who died from premature birth in 1974. My wife Joyce's water broke after carrying them for six months. One was still born and the other died a day later.

But the Lord is still good. He blessed us with three daughters and my wife and I are still happily married after 40 years. So, as we so often say in our Baptist church, you can't make me doubt Him because I know too much about Him. As I look back over my 64 years of life thus far, I can see so much that the Lord has done for me. And still the half may never be told.

God bless you.

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3 Comments

Yes, indeed Prof Randy Pausch taught us to have fun while it last. He also taught us to help others achieve their dreams. In dreams are hopes, in dreams are creative potentialities and in dreams we build.

As much as Prof Randy taught his students to push ahead into the frontier of virtual reality, not let traditional old thinking boxes one down and to keep improving, the most surprising decision was his choice of treatment for his condition.

In his last lecture, he opened by informing everyone not to bother sending him any herbal remedies like those were quackery. Did the Prof not know the flora and fauna world is God's gift of natural pharmacological dispensary for our use? In fact when one takes natural remedies they have less side effects then the synthetic poison which most chemotherapies tend to be.

There are many complementary herbal remedies which taken alongside traditional chemotherapies and radiation, increase survival rate or prolong patients' quality for life.

In fact one needs to be educated and research these remedies to determine which ones are conducive to assist in regaining wellness.
The better remedies have scientific studies to back them. Please do not take the remedies which make claims of cure without providing valid studies or scientific papers.

By engaging our minds to evaluate our conditions, by researching and combining herbal remedies with western medicine and by invoking our faith, we integrate all the best knowledge and bring together body, mind and soul in order to live another fun day.

Knowledge should be our guide as we meander through and selecting the right course of treatment. Knowledge challenges us to consider other possibilities. Knowledge is balancing and utilizing the best of everything.

Prof was a philosopher who challenged all of us to rediscover our inner selves and to have passion for life. He was the man for all seasons even while facing his untimely passing. Many thanked him for helping them put aside pettiness and develop life highest aspiration - to love and build on dreams.

Banks' response: Indeed, Chao, knowledge is power. And my Christian faith teaches that any knowledge that is true in simply an extension of Jesus, who professed, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father (the center and source of eternal life) but by me."

Your comment is so relative and, as the British often say, spot-on. One must avail himself of the best of all cultures is his effort to aid his healing. Mine starts with my faith in my saviour, Christ Jesus. But it extends into the help from doctors and help from, among other things, East Asian culture. I burn, or, as the Japanese say, listen to, Japanese, Indian and Chinese incense to intensify my prayerful meditations and relaxation, Whatever calms the body helps serve as a launching pad for the body's homeostasis to operate. God created our bodies with built-in mechanisms that provide healing, pain killing and enhanced consciousness. As a man thinketh, so is he.

And as you wrote in your wonderful, informative comment, Chao, lethal loggers are invading more and more of our world's rain forests and other virgin territories and ignorantly destroying much of nature before they truly realize what exactly they are destroying. Can you hear the chaos of chainsaws buzzing in the distance?

Within those forests, I believe, are priceless herbs that could provide a cure for cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer, MLS and other diseases presently deemed incurable and terminal. And with the eradication of so much that is organic and pure about our environment comes the worsening of global warming. Here, again. knowledge is power. It could save if if we'd get more of it and use it instead of writing off potential long-term human gain for short-term financial profit. Such prioritizing of greed over need is rapidly propelling the death of our planet, which, of course, is accompanied by genocide, until we can find another planet to inhabit and rape into ruin.

Your blog and the Last Lecture remind me of something Rev. Slaughter would often tell us..."you don't have as much time left as you have already spent...so you've got to get it right." I pray everyday to get it right because I sure do want to see Jesus. None of us are worthy of the goodness He has bestowed upon us and that in itself is enough to know He really, really does love us. Stay in prayer.

Banks' response: Come to think of it, Gwen, didn't Pastor Slaughter also die young? Right about the same age of 47? Why is it so often that the good die young? Jesus, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Mozart and so many other raw geniuses of soul, science, art and unselfish service also died young. And yet they live on long after they are dead. That's something my dear father often told me, which I was not deep enough to understand at the time.
"Lacy, I'm going to be alive long after I'm dead," he often said.
Sure enough, daddy indeed still lives in me, his three preaching sons and countless others whose lives he greatly enriched with his precious preaching.
The world's best lives loom largest and loudest in death.

Rev. Slaughter was 68 years old at his passing. Before he left here he shared with so many his joy, given only by God, to be taken only by God. Like your father, he remains in the hearts of those whose life he touched. Stay in prayer.

Banks' response: Gwen! 68 years old! Incredible! Pastor Slaughter appeared to be so much younger. Wow! No wonder he could do so much before departing. Plus, he was a pastor, a lawyer, an alderman and no doubt something else. Great men tend to do so much in so little time that when they leave it appears they left too soon. Then they leave us marveling about all the wonderful things they were able to get done.

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Lacy J. Banks

Lacy J. Banks, 67, has been a Sun-Times sportswriter/columnist for 38 years and a Baptist preacher for 58 years. He has preached at more than 100 different churches in the Chicago area. A native of Lyon, Miss., Banks graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.A. in French and he served three years in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Naval officer. Lacy and wife, Joyce, have been married 42 years and have three daughters and five grandchildren. Among beats Banks has covered for the Sun-Times are the Bulls, Fire, defunct Sting, Blackhawks, Wolves, Cubs, defunct Hussle, Rush, Sky, college football and basketball and pro boxing.

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This page contains a single entry by Lacy Banks published on July 26, 2008 10:44 PM.

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