The Last Lecture

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The Last Lecture Chapter 58 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Since Randy’s last lecture went viral on the internet, he’s heard from many people he had previously lost touch with. A colleague recalls advice Randy gave him, and a former student tells Randy that he has inspired that student to create a personal-development website designed to help people stop living below their potential. One of Randy’s high-school crushes even writes to remind him that he was (and still is) way too nerdy for her.
The recording of Randy’s last lecture, initially just meant for his students and kids, shockingly goes viral on the internet. The popularity of the lecture on the internet creates another kind of feedback loop where Randy receives messages from friends, people he had forgotten about, as well as strangers.
Themes
Teaching, Learning, and Feedback Loops Theme Icon
Also, Randy has been buoyed by the good wishes of thousands of strangers. One woman recalls a story of her husband’s “last speech,” during which he told his children, parents and siblings everything that was important to him, much like Randy did during his last lecture. Another woman, whose husband died of a brain tumor when her kids were young, wrote to Jai to say that her children will become the reason she is able to move on, as they’re a tremendous source of comfort and love. Randy also heard from a man with heart problems about Krishnamurti, a spiritual leader in India who, when he was asked what to say to someone who was about to die, told his followers to tell their friends that “in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him. Wherever he goes, you also go. He will not be alone.” The man tells Randy that he, too, will not be alone.
The enormous obstacle of Randy’s cancer (and the fact that the YouTube video of his last lecture went viral) gives Randy the opportunity to connect with many people he had never met before and whom he almost certainly never would have heard from. Much of the feedback Randy receives is positive and some of it gives Jai and Randy strategies for coping with their situation.
Themes
Teaching, Learning, and Feedback Loops Theme Icon
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Randy also gets interviewed by Diane Sawyer after his lecture becomes popular, and Randy says that when the camera was off, Sawyer gave him an incredible piece of advice in telling Randy to tell leave notes for his kids explaining to them the specific ways in which he related to each of them, giving them specific stuff they can grasp. Dr. Reiss, Randy and Jai’s marriage counselor, has also helped Randy to focus on his family and maintain a positive outlook despite his situation. Randy spent much of his life doubting the effectiveness of counseling, but now, with his “back against the wall,” he sees how helpful it can be.
One way that Randy can be as positive and proactive as possible about his approaching death is by taking practical, positive steps (like writing letters to his kids and making personal videos for them) to ease his family’s grief once he dies. Randy also never stops learning, even when close to the end, as going to couples counseling with Dr. Reiss turns Randy into a believer in the transformative power of therapy.
Themes
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Attitude and Positive Behavior Theme Icon
Many people have written to Randy about matters of faith. Though Randy didn’t want to talk about faith during his lecture, now he does mention that M.R. Kelsey, a woman from his church, came and sat with Randy in the hospital for eleven days after his surgery. Later, the day after Randy finds out he is terminal, he sees his Minister at the swimming pool, winks at him, and does a flip off the diving board. When Randy swims over, his minister tells Randy that he’s the picture of health. When Randy tells the priest his situation, the minister advises that Randy needs “emotional insurance,” to be paid with time instead of money. The minister suggests Randy spend hours making videotapes of himself with his kids, so they’ll have a record of how they played, laughed and were together. This way, when Randy gets sicker, he’ll feel more at peace. Every day, Randy says he gets to see the best in humanity thanks to people reaching out to him, and he feels grateful to never feel alone on the ride he’s taking.
The minister recommends that Randy take proactive, positive steps to ease his own conscience and also to leave parts of himself behind for his kids and wife to absorb later on when he’s gone. Though Randy surely wishes he didn’t have cancer, he uses his impending death as an opportunity to truly, fully say goodbye to his kids, which he couldn’t have done if he’d had a heart attack or died in some other sudden way.
Themes
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Attitude and Positive Behavior Theme Icon
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