On Passing

As I look out my office window I see the comings and goings of people who never seem to age.  They are perpetually locked in the glow and vitality of their youth. I don't generally witness their lives once they've left our institution so I don't see them grow old or weak or sick. I always see them at their peak. They are always facing forward with the sun in their face.  The world is open to them. The future is open to them.

Looking out my window is a reminder that things continue, even if we do not. Even if our friends do not. Even if everyone and everything we know and cherish does not.

I think it is a fear in that realization 'we' will not continue that can lead people to despair; so evident  in our modern, hedonistic times.  I find that sad.  Historically this realization was probably the catalyst for most of humanities profound thoughts.  The knowledge that we will not continue, but that 'life' will; that we have some responsibility to that future through out actions in the present.

I have just received news of the passing of a friend.

I knew it was coming. Some kinds of cancer seem just beyond the current, although sometimes miraculous, powers of modern medicine. What's remarkable, and what I want to share, is that at this moment I am neither sad, nor angry with the disease that took him. I thought I would be, and have honestly been so since the last time I saw how much the disease and subsequent 'treatments' had affected him. When I saw that I simply wanted to cry.

No, and maybe it's because I know the finality of passing; instead I am remembering the manner in which he faced his situation.  He was a medical professional and knew the likely prognosis the moment he heard the diagnosis.  I really don't know what went through his mind at that precise moment, but what I witnessed him doing for the following weeks and months is worth attesting to.  He spent his time recording lectures and developing course materials for the times when he knew he would be incapacitated by chemotherapy. He was not thinking of himself but rather how he could do the most for others, all the while believing he would pull out of this; recover.

He didn't recover. He did, and will, persevere.

In 2007 when Randy Pausch gave his now famous "Last Lecture" it made waves in our small department. Based on the fact that over 15 million people have watched the youtube video, I'm certain he had a profound impact outside our small department.

In case you haven't watched it: