And Have Found Two People Who Understand Me
I have always been appreciative of those that have helped me in life. However, in the past half dozen years, I am even more grateful of their help, even though I did not understand why. I assumed that I was just that way. Then the pieces came together. I was having dinner at a Chicago restaurant with a friend of mine. He sat through dinner with me and listened to me go on about everything. He just sat and politely listened. Finally, while ordering dessert, he had an opening and took advantage of it. He inquired, "Have you seen The Last Lecture?" I said that I had not and went on about dozens of other things. The next morning, he emailed a link to Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture.
For the first time, I could clearly understand what I had experienced a half dozen years before. In 2008, I danced with death twice, which changed my Weltanschauung or worldview. One dance was prostate cancer and the other was a traumatic brain injury. On the fifth anniversary of my dance due to falling off a ladder, I invited my family to what I called my Humpty Dumpty party. Everyone enjoyed the party. Nonetheless, I did not even wonder whether it was strange to have a Humpty Dumpty party. I just thought it would be a fun event. While watching The Last Lecture, I finally started to comprehend the changes that had occurred to me in the years after the fall. In the past year, I have written nearly five-dozen essays about The Last Lecture and the transformation within me.
While I did not enjoy either dance, I would not delete either of them from my life. Both dances became strange blessings. I get that, but many of the people who have had to read or listen to me go on about my transformative experiences question either the degree or amount of changes that have occurred. I have told people that if I were in their position and heard someone go on as I have, I too would also be skeptical of that person. Beyond that, I have written about many others that have done the dance. Years ago, I knew about some of their dances, but I missed how the dance changed their lives.
Now, when I read about people who have danced with death, I see the transformation quite clearly. For example, when in high school, I memorized poems by Alan Seeger and John Donne and thought I knew the complete story. Nonetheless, I did not get it not until I watched Pausch's The Last Lecture. I truly get it now. I have written over fifty essays this year, which mention Pausch's The Last Lecture and its profound effect upon me.
A couple weeks ago, I called Carnegie Mellon where Randy Pausch had been a professor. I asked whether I could speak with a person who might have known him. I had never talked to any of the dancers including Pausch. I was transferred to Mrs. Cleah Schlueter, who is an administrator in his department at Carnegie Mellon. I told Mrs. Schlueter about my dances and my desire to talk with someone who knew him. That single statement resulted in a most amazing conversation.
Intentionally, I attempted to explain to Mrs. Schlueter why Randy Pausch was such an important person to me in addition to The Last Lecture. I told her that I grew up in Mt. Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh, where I lived prior to college and knew Carnegie Mellon quiet well. Mrs. Schlueter mentioned that she had also lived in Mt. Lebanon. I mentioned that Randy Pausch's father was Presbyterian as I am. Then I mentioned that Pausch and I both loved the Steelers.
Finally, after getting to know each other, I mentioned the level on intensity at which I function regarding expressing my appreciation to people for any help they provide me. It does not matter how slight that assistance might have been. Mrs. Schlueter's said that was how Pausch functioned. On we went discussing how doing the dance has changed his and my Weltanschauung.
After our long phone call, I thanked her for her time and hung up. I just sat there and processed our conversation. Only one other person who knows about my dances understood me, my granddaughter, Ayanna. Additionally, for the first time, I had talked with someone who actually knew Pausch and was not skeptical of my being so wired. I benefited a great deal from having someone understand and validate my drive. Two days later in my mail, Mrs. Schlueter had sent Randy Pausch's book and video of The Last Lecture.
I emailed Mrs. Schlueter my appreciation for the gift. In addition, I mentioned some of the other people who danced with death like Alan Seeger, Steve Jobs, Kurt Vonnegut, Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, John Donne, Saul Alinsky, David Hume, Oliver Sacks, and Henry David Thoreau. Unless, one has done the dance, one cannot fully understand those that have. I told her that if I had not done the dance, I wouldn't understand either.
One final observation for my readers, Randy Pausch died in July only a couple months after my two dances earlier in 2008. Randy Pausch surely helped me and many others in his life.
Visit the On Seeing the Light page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Connecting the Dots page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Darkest Before Dawn page to read more about this topic.
Visit the The Last Lecture page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Dancing with Death page to read more about this topic.
Visit The Mentors and Me page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Best and Worst of Times page to read more about this topic.