The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Randy talks a lot about Jai’s character, especially her strength, directness, and honesty. Early in their relationship Jai would tell Randy she had a “gut feeling” about something, but through time she learns instead to present him with scientific data. For example, Randy wants to go visit his side of the family during Christmas, but they all have the flu. Jai doesn’t want Randy or the kids to visit while Randy is so sick with cancer, but Randy wants to go because it might be one of his last opportunities to see his family. Jai gets opinions from two doctors, neither of whom think they should go. So, Randy lets Jai and the kids stay home, and he visits his family alone. (He doesn’t get sick).
Jai begins to see obstacles as opportunities just as Randy does. When her intuition-based logic bumps up against Randy’s hyper-logical science-based nature, she uses it as an opportunity to get through to him in a way that Randy will certainly understand: through factual, scientific data. So, Jai rightly wins the argument of whether Jai, Randy and the kids should visit his family at Christmas by beating him at his own game and asking medical experts for their opinions.
Themes
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Jai handles Randy relatively well, but since he has gotten sick she is learning to let stuff slide. Randy has the habit of leaving his clothing all over the floor, and, rather than argue like they used to, Jai will just kick Randy’s clothes to the corner. Jai writes in a journal to take her angst out on something other than Randy, and she also tries to focus on the positive rather than the negative because “It’s not helpful if we spend every day dreading tomorrow.”
Letting the little stuff slide is a part of having a positive attitude, and Jai letting Randy’s messy clothing habit not bother her so much leads to fewer arguments in their marriage. In a way, this is turning an obstacle into an opportunity, as this might never have happened had Randy not been diagnosed with cancer.
Themes
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Attitude and Positive Behavior Theme Icon
On Randy’s last New Years, he takes Dylan to go see the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and, though Randy had read a review, he didn’t know it was about a dying toymaker handing the shop over to an apprentice. Dylan cries at the movie, his head on Randy’s lap, and Randy says that if his life were a movie this would be over-the-top foreshadowing. One line from the movie sticks in Randy’s mind—the apprentice tells the toymaker that he can’t die, that he has to live, to which the toymaker responds, “I already did that.”
Randy sees himself as the toymaker, but rather than being depressed that his life is ending, Randy is able, at least somewhat, to appreciate that he has lived his life to the fullest. Also, Randy uses the obstacle of seeing a film that so closely confronts his own reality as an opportunity to spend an intimate moment with his son.
Themes
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Attitude and Positive Behavior Theme Icon
Later that night, Randy is depressed, and Jai cheers him up by discussing all the wonderful things they’ve done that past year. Jai says that one of her favorite things is watching Randy interact with the kids—at Christmas, Randy made an adventure of putting the lights on the tree. Rather than do it properly, he had the kids just throw them all around however they wanted. They got a video of the chaos, and Jai says it will always be one of her favorite memories.
Jai tries to help Randy become less depressed by shifting his focus to all of the positive things his family has done that past year. The Christmas tree video is a wonderful example of an obstacle (chaotic, messy Christmas lights) being an opportunity to look at the messiness in a more positive light and see how creative their kids were able to be and how much fun they were able to have doing an often boring or hyper-organized activity.
Themes
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Attitude and Positive Behavior Theme Icon
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Jai goes on websites for cancer patients, but can’t stay for too long because it depresses her. However, she finds one comment very helpful: it’s from a woman whose husband died before they could go on a family vacation. The woman says to go on those trips you’ve always wanted to take, and to live in the moment. When things get tough, Jai tries to remember all the wonderful times early in their relationship—like Randy sending her flowers or bringing her huge stuffed animals to put in her office. Jai, too, has lived out many of her childhood dreams, including one of her biggest, which was to have kids and a family of her own. Overall, Jai has taken strength from standing together with Randy “shoulder to shoulder” and being honest with him “heart to heart.” Yes, she still gets mad when he leaves his clothes everywhere, but all things considered she’ll give him a pass. And Randy says he knows that he owes it to his wife to try to straighten up the mess. His new years resolution is to try harder.
Using the obstacle of being given a cancer diagnosis as an opportunity to take trips and do the things you’ve always wanted to do in life is a prime example of using a positive attitude to make a bleak situation into a lighter one. Also, Randy and Jai, while not shying away from their tough situation, are able to remember their positive shared history and focus on the powerful connection of their relationship. And, even though he will die soon, Randy still makes a new years resolution to take Jai’s feedback about his messiness and try to work harder to be a bit neater.
Themes
Obstacles as Opportunities Theme Icon
Attitude and Positive Behavior Theme Icon