Monday, July 28, 2008

Before it ends, it's called LIFE

I'm going to take a moment to write a serious post. It's about life, which is ultimately about death.

In December Randy Pausch, a college professor from Carnegie Mellon University gave a lecture for a series entitled "The Last Lecture". Ironically, it was his last. Randy had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was given just months to live. He died last week. I strongly encourage you to watch the entire 70+ minute lecture, but for time purposes, I'm posting a short video with snippets of the lecture. (By the way, the last 30 seconds of the full lecture is why I was so moved, and you have to watch the whole thing to understand it. Hint: It's a "head fake").

When I was 15, I joined the Watchung Rescue Squad as a Cadet. From that moment until the day I turned over my pager at 25 years old, I was being shaped into a new me. First and foremost - the people who surrounded me were genuine, caring, fun, responsible and really smart people. Jim, Steve, Diddy, Shirley (rest in peace), Brian, and many others treated me like a brother, a son and a respected friend.

Being that young and experiencing situations that were true life and death, the thrill of the call for help, the emotional effects of seeing tragic death with my young eyes, performing CPR on dozens of people including a child, cutting trapped victims from their tangled cards, and doing things right because if you didn't people could die, and did. I was a crew chief and an officer who was responsible for my team and the members of my squad, and I learned fist hand - that life ends in death.

About 7 years ago, I was in the parking lot of Newark airport and answered a call from my brother Shawn, who broke the news: Dad had pancreatic cancer and was given months to live. It went quick, and since he lived in Massachusetts I was only able to see him two or three times before he died. I was thankful for the opportunity to know that he was going to die. That may sound strange, but I didn’t have a great relationship with my Dad and as I grew older – I realized what he had done for my family and for me. Being given the opportunity to say “Thank you for everything” and “I love you”, and know it was the last time I would say it to him truly meant the world to me. I think about my Dad almost every day.

As a father myself now, my responsibilities are even greater then they were to those people I helped as an EMT. I have to teach my girls how to learn, love, laugh, and live whole and healthy lives. I have to teach them, by example, what a great father-daughter & husband-wife relationship is and most important: have a whole lot of fun while living life!

The point I want to convey is this: This is it, kids! This is life! This is us living it! It could end tragically tomorrow or it could last whole lot longer. Either way, carpe diem! Don’t get caught up in the small stuff, laugh a lot, tell those who you care about that you love them, but mostly HAVE FUN!

As Randy Pausch asked: Are you a Tigger or an Eeyore?