Youngest son Brett suggested that I read The Last Lecture. The book came from the notoriety gained when professor Randy Pausch literally delivered his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University, because he knew he was soon going to die. The lecture became one of the most viewed items on the internet.
The book and the lecture (which you can view below) are inspirational and thought provoking. Pausch's response to a terrible disease was remarkable. Here is just one little tidbit:
"We can't change the cards we're dealt, just how we play the hand. If I'm not as depressed as you think I should be, I'm sorry to disappoint you."
Because of my wife Joni's battle with breast cancer, this story was especially poignant. We have had to face our mortality in very real ways. I began to think about what my last message might be if I found myself in Randy Pausch's situation. I read the obituaries every day and it often makes me sad to see a life with nothing of value to report. Some obits are not much more than "Fred was a carbon-based life form for 67 years." I hope that most of the people who stumble to this site want to leave a little more behind than that.
I suspect I would plow much of the same ground as Randy. Have fun. Relax about the things that don't really matter. Live fully in the moment. If I had to condense five decades down to a last message I think the outline might look something like this.
Love your wife.
Most of us repeated something like this on our wedding day:
"I [Guy in Hideous Tux], take you [What Were You Thinking Beautiful Bride], to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward, until death do us part."
One of my last messages to young men and women would be to take those vows seriously. The word cherish is a word that guys don't use much, but it is one we should look up and learn the meaning. Dictionary.com defines it simply:
"To treat with affection and tenderness; hold dear."
I wish I had cherished my wife more consistently over the years. I do plan to finish strong.
Love your children.
I would tell parents to love their children for who they are and not what you had hoped to produce. Affirm them with love for who they actually are and the gifts God gave them. I hate disingenuous praise. Every child is gifted in some areas and not so much in others. Tell them how they are special. Tell them when you are proud of them. Tell them you love them. Let them be kids now and then. Let them get dirty and break things once in a while. It's OK. They are kids. It is no reflection on you that they are not perfect. If you look closely in the mirror you might note that you aren't either.
Love your friends.
I would want my last message to encourage people to make friends and not just acquaintances. When I see people who don't have a good friend, I feel really sad for them. A person with good friends is never poor. Solomon knew that a real friend loves you no matter what happens. He wrote these words in Proverbs. There are "friends" who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.
Love your life.
Sure life is hard. For some life is really hard. But we do have a choice in how we play the cards dealt to us. Read stories about those who play their difficult life cards well. And pray for the strength to choose that strategy when you are dealt a bad hand.
Love to laugh.
Everyone who knows me at all knows that I love to laugh and enjoy my time on this planet. I have adopted the philosophy that if an embarrassing moment is going to be funny in a year, then you might as well start laughing today. Learn to laugh at yourself. Laugh with your spouse and your kids and your friends. Laugh often and long.
Love to serve and give.
The happiest people I know are those who give their lives away. It is so counterintuitive to the messages we are bombarded with every day. I would probably work in a little bit from Philippians 2, Colossians 3, and Romans 12.
"In the room of grace, we grow up and mature into something that is already true about us: [We are] godly. God is not interested in changing the Christian. He already has. . . . God wants us to believe that He has already changed us so that He can get on with the process of maturing us."
I think Satan's strategy is devastating simple and effective. If he can cause us to live in regret of the past and fear of the future, then that will rob us of the joy of today. Find something to love in each day. It could be the day before your life summary in the obituaries. Who knows?
I had some bad teaching in my early journey with Jesus but I have never stopped learning and pursuing the truth and what it means to be a disciple of Christ. I love to learn: about God, about life, about everything.
I talked to a friend of mine whose son just returned from a youth mission trip to Costa Rica. His main takeaway was this observation:
"Dad, they aren't like Christians in American. They really love Jesus."
I know that many people really love Jesus in this country. But what he saw was unashamed, authentic, and complete devotion to Christ. It is often too easy not to live that life in this blessed land. Really love Jesus. Most of us are content with a Savior. Jesus wants to be Lord in our lives. The difference is profound in how we travel our Christian journey. Learn who you are in Christ. Forgiven. A saint with no condemnation who is adored by God. Trust Jesus to be Lord. God is trustworthy. That is true and I have experienced it.
I think that would be the last point of my last lecture.