When I was 20, I never thought about death and its implications. I was too busy planning what movie I would view next, what puppy I wouild like, and my next trip to the mall. Now I am restricted to a “three dog life.” Where did time go?
Living your life to the fullest, and facing the end of life with grace and dignity is something that, to a degree, can be “learned” though inspirational literature. I recently saw a review for the book Dream New Dreams: Reimagining My Life After Loss by Jai Pausch, and I knew it was a must-read.
In 2008 I read the The Last Lecture because a friend recommended it, and I was impressed by its staying power on the bestseller list. I was really moved by the book, and quite mesmerized, as Randy Pausch was a natural storyteller. Randy was a Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University and a visionary tech wizard. Randy became famous after his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon which became an internet sensation. The book fleshed out his lecture, added stories, and related lessons for his children and for the general public.
His story is continued in his wife’s new book Dream New Dreams. Jai Pausch devotes half the book to her experiences as caregiver and mother after her husband Randy’s diagnosis. Anybody serving as a caregiver would gain valuable insights from her journal-like entries detailing the progression of Randy’s illness, the trials and tribulations, and the related marital problems. While Randy distracted himself with the noble task of preparing his last lecture, subsequent interviews, and writing a book, his wife was caregiver to him and their three children. Randy was not a saint and Jai is incredibly honest about their conflicts and shortcomings…and sometimes that honesty made me uncomfortable.
I think the book becomes more interesting when Jai focuses on her own experiences and reactions as a grieving widow. Anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one can relate to Jai’s struggles coping with depression, family responsibilities, and her Year of Firsts (with all the holidays and celebrations where a loved one is absent). Jai learned to try to take care of herself by enjoying escapist activities like sports, travel, or simply reading and re-reading a book. Jai tried to remind herself of today’s possibilities rather than yesterday’s disappointments. You’ll be glad to know that Jai has found love again and a new purpose by becoming a spokeswoman for pancreatic cancer. She is moving forward step by step by picking up the pieces and creating something new.