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.