Last lecture

Recently I read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.  He had been a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon for many years and gave his lecture knowing Death was banging on his door.  It inspired me to write this post.

A friend recently told me that what I went through was just part of the Human Condition and not to make a song and dance about it.  Harsh but he had a point.  If suffering was an Olympic sport I would not even pass the qualifying round.  Undoubtedly there are billions worse off.  I only need to look at the families living in bedsits next door.

However I don’t think emotional and mental pain should be compared and quantified.  We can experience the same event but have very different reactions.  A classic example is my childhood felt less jolly than my sister’s because she was the favourite whilst being the last chance saloon for a boy I grew up feeling a disappointment.  Same parents, same upbringing, same period of history, same culture.  Mama dressed us as twins even though she is older by 18 months.  Yet we are chalk and cheese.

I digress.  If I was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer like Randy, what would I tell the next generation or even my soon to be 21 year old? 

Quite simply, be your own person and live your life.  Don’t look for salvation or to be rescued by anybody else, not friends, not lovers, not even God or some Higher Spiritual Being.  By all means do good and be a compassionate empathetic person but don’t try to please others and swallow all your own needs.  You are doomed to fail because you can’t please everybody and certainly not all the time.  You will end up feeling resentful and that anger turned inwards will become crippling clinical depression.  The worse of both worlds for not only are the people around you miserable but you have made yourself ill.  Nobody thanks you.  I am not advocating you adopt the ‘sod everybody as long as I am alright Jack’ attitude but do look out for yourself.

Be happy.  Don’t sweat the small nor the big stuff.  Some you can’t control and most are trivial in the big scheme of things.  If you can do something about it then go ahead otherwise Let It Be!  Remember the Beatles song?   Whether happy or feeling shit the sun rises and sets regardless.  I hate the expression ‘Life goes on’ but it really does.  Your world has collapsed and you want to lie down and die but quite honestly nobody cares.  I find this strangely comforting.  It puts things into perspective.  You wallow a while in self pity and then there comes a point you have to emerge from under that safe duvet and self built prison and face the world.  Ready or not here I come.

If you have a dream or something you’ve always wanted to do or go or somone to be with or peace to make then do it sooner than later.  Since Mama’s death this has really come home to me.  I often look at her photo on top of my book shelf and there she is a beautiful smiling young woman.  I wonder where she has gone?  Is death really it or has her soul or spirit gone to Heaven as she believed all her life or is it just a lie we tell ourselves to get through the crap that Life chucks at us?  I guess we’ll never know until we ourselves walk that tunnel of light and if we are Christians or Catholics be met by St. Peter at the pearly gates.  He must be a very busy saint.  Or like me an infidel perhaps Satan with his pitchfork and tail will greet me at the entrance to Hell and the eternal flame.

It is Friday, 31st January 2014 according to the Gregorian calendar but based on the Lunar  it is Chinese New Year’s Day in Hong Kong.  Mama G wishes you all a Happy Year of the Horse, Good Health and Happiness.  I don’t wish you prosperity as money really is the root of all evil, albeit a necessary one.  So I wish you have sufficient for your needs and a little extra for the occasional treat but not too much that you become greedy or mean spirited.

My’ suffering’ is not unique but nevertheless it is mine.  Pain is the best teacher.  The ocean of tears shed and the broken heart won’t allow me to forget the lessons learnt.  Undoubtedly I am damaged goods.  I, the otherwise perfect Ming dynasty vase with a crack.  Nevertheless still in one piece I live to tell the tale for another day.

Thank you for sticking with me this far.  I hope you will stay a while.  Do you know the Camus quote, ‘Just walk next to me and be my friend’?




About cho wan yau

Teacher by day poet/writer by night. Words have been my first love and will be my last. As a child I locked myself into the toilet devouring books which transported me to distant lands. Poetry shared penned from 2009-2010 in a titanic struggle to stay sane at Heartbreak Hotel. Please check it out on Any comments or feedback welcome. Why not share your story with me, because we all have one, don't we?

Posted on January 30, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. I love this post (and Randy’s book). You’re going to be just fine, you know. I’m fairly certain that you do, in fact, know that. 🙂 Happy New Year!

    • Yep I know I literally feel the weight falling off my shoulders as I take a deep breath and walk Cleo. Trust me I am so much better and happier than this time last year. Yep Happy New Year Lady!

  2. “I find this strangely comforting. It puts things into perspective.” Beautiful. And I can’t see any crack from here.

  3. That’s cos you’ve forgotten to put your glasses on Paul! Thanks for kind words again.

  4. 新年快樂!
    I wish you 身體健康, 萬事如意!

    • Likewise. Can’t type Chinese characters from my laptop but I am grateful to Mama for sending me off to Chinese classes every Saturday morning so I can read and write my own language. Mind you I used to curse her as we had to go to Sunday School as well, so never a day off!

      • My smartphone allow me to type in Chinese characters. I simply type in the Pin Yin. I guess I am kinda cheating. L-O-L!
        I am also very grateful that it has WordPress app!

      • My samsung allows me to switch to writing Chinese and I don’t cheat with Pingying! But I find the screen too small to write as I could only afford the cheapest model. And yep mine has a wp app too and lots of other goodies. How did we ever manage before??

      • I have to rely much on the smart phone WP because the internet connection here is pretty bad. The provider I use for my smartphone has better signal.

        I have always wanted to try smartphone with interactive touch screen but I think I should not. I break things ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

        It’s a miracle I manage to draw all those illustrations without tearing up the papers!
        Ha ha ha ha ha

      • Cool. Hurray for technology!

  5. What an inspiring and wise post! I am curious to read this book but even more moved by your words to your son. You write beautifully and from the heart. Blessings, Oliana

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