By Yvonne Lee
Q&A: Randy Pausch’s Legacy
Jai Pausch talks about life and loss—and continuing her husband’s work
By Yvonne Lee
Jai Pausch has lived through many “firsts” in the last two years since losing her husband, Randy Pausch, 47, to pancreatic cancer: the first wedding anniversary without him, the first holiday “without your loved one who passed away,” the first birthday celebrations of the couple’s three children as a single mother.
“I made it through that first year, and of course, all the adjustments from having so much focus on Randy and trying to take care of him and juggling the kids, too,” she says. “Now we don’t have so many people coming to visit, and the house seems very quiet.”
Randy Pausch became a household name after a video of his September 2007 “Last Lecture” at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, went viral, with more than 12 million views on YouTube. In it, the computer science professor encouraged people to live out their childhood dreams and spoke about the importance of having fun. Even after learning in 2008 that the cancer had metastasized to his liver, he exuded a zest for life that belied his grave prognosis.
“He never gave up,” Jai Pausch, 44, says. “And I think that helped him to appreciate the time that he had and not allow the stress of cancer and the fear of dying cloud his vision … even with the threat of dying being there. That was remarkable.”
It is estimated that pancreatic cancer will kill about 37,000 people this year, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. The disease has the lowest survival rate of all major cancers—94 percent of patients die within five years of diagnosis.
Four months before he died, Randy Pausch testified before Congress to shed light on the lack of funding for his disease. Now, his eldest son, Dylan, 8, is taking up his father’s cause. He went to Capitol Hill in July to lobby lawmakers for “more research dollars,” Jai Pausch says. “And he did a fantastic job.” She, Dylan and his two younger siblings, Logan, 6, and Chloe, 4, live in Hampton Roads, Va.
Jai Pausch spoke to CR a week before the July 25 anniversary of her husband’s death and discussed the importance of continuing his work of raising awareness about pancreatic cancer.
(photo, top: Kristi A. Rines / Photography Pure and Simple; photo, bottom: © AP Photo / Tribune-Review, Steven Adams)