Randy notes that caregivers often get pushed to the sidelines. So, during his Last Lecture, Randy wanted to show Jai, and everyone else, how much he loves and appreciates her. During the part of his lecture where Randy reiterates how focusing on other people is important, Cleah Schlueter, one of Jai’s friends, pushes a huge cake with a single candle on it to the center of the stage, and Randy gets the 400-person crowd to sing her happy birthday. As they sing, Randy finally looks over at Jai, and sees her wiping away tears and smiling.
Though Randy missed celebrating the actual day of Jai’s birthday in order to prepare for his last lecture, Randy is optimistic that he can make the situation up to her by arranging this ceremony, in front of hundreds of people (and filmed for posterity), in which he publicly celebrates her. Randy makes the best of an imperfect situation, making his wife happy in the process.
Randy says he feels lucky to have had cancer rather than having been hit with the “proverbial bus” because it has given him time to have vital conversations with Jai that wouldn’t have been possible if he’d died suddenly. Randy tries to remind Jai that some of the best caregiver advice comes from flight attendants, in that people have to put on their own oxygen masks before they can help anyone else. So, Randy reminds Jai that giving herself permission to recharge will be even more important after he’s gone. He also says that she’s going to make mistakes, but that’s a part of being a parent, and she shouldn’t attribute all of them to the fact that she’ll be raising the kids herself. Randy also says Jai knows not to try to make up for the loss of Randy with material things.
Randy, though not happy to have cancer, embraces the advanced warning of his death as an opportunity to get his affairs in order, say his goodbyes, and leave pieces of himself (like this book and his last lecture itself) for people in the future to learn from, especially his kids. Randy also urges Jai to be positive toward herself and her situation, and to embrace mistakes as inevitable and try to correct them as they come.
Randy is saddened that he won’t be there when the kids become teenagers, as he thinks he would have come into his own when the kids reached that age. The good news, though, is that friends and family will want to help out, and Jai plans on letting them. Just as Randy’s dad signed him up for football, Jai will be on the lookout for potential Coach Grahams to insert into her kids’ lives. Most of all, Randy wants Jai to be happy in the future, whether she finds happiness by remarrying or staying single. Randy says he and Jai work hard at their marriage, and it saddens him that they won’t experience their relationship’s richness for the next 40 years. They try to be positive, but they’ve often cried together, though someone (usually Jai) has to sleep eventually so they can get up and take care of the kids.
Though there will be no replacement for the real, flesh-and-blood Randy, Jai will be on the lookout for imperfect solutions and feedback loops (in the form of mentors) to insert into her kids’ lives. Randy, as always, is positive and open-minded about Jai’s future without him—surely he doesn’t enjoy imagining his wife with another partner, but he’s also selfless enough to acknowledge that, above all else, he wants Jai and his kids to be happy no matter what that entails.
Sometimes, Jai tells Randy things he doesn’t know how to respond to—like that she can’t imagine Randy not there on family vacations, or that Randy is the planner, and without him “Who’s going to make the plans?” Randy says he’s not worried, and Jai will make plans just fine. Randy returns to that day of the last lecture, saying he had no idea what he would do or say after the audience sang “Happy Birthday” to Jai. But as he got her on stage, a natural impulse overtook Randy and he kissed his wife, first on the lips, then on the cheek. As they held each other, Jai whispered to Randy, “Please don’t die,” and all he could do was hug her more tightly.
Sometimes it’s hard to be positive, and you simply have to sit with the sadness. But even in his and Jai’s saddest moments, Randy remains resolute in his faith in Jai to raise their kids just fine. Although Randy is unable to promise his wife immortality, his freezing of this moment in the book is, in a way, a way for this moment to never die—he has passed it along to anyone who reads the book.