Running out of time


Dear Artist,

Randy Pausch was a professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In September 2006 he learned he had pancreatic cancer. Feeling the need to spend as much time as possible with his family, Randy cleared his desk and moved his wife, Jai, and their three young children, Dylan, Logan and Chloe, to another state. Here, he rationalized, the children might be better able to receive the wisdom of their grandparents and begin a life without their dad.


Randy and his family

A cheerful, optimistic and innately curious chap from the get-go, Randy seemed to accept his fate with more equanimity than his friends and colleagues gave him. As was the tradition with retiring faculty at CMU, he was asked to give a last lecture, a mix of summing up and parting advice to any students or others who might be interested. Just as knowing when the date and time of the end of a vacation determines how one might take advantage of the last days, such a lecture might be particularly cogent. Four hundred people showed up. Videos were made. A book came out if it. Among other things, Randy gave some straightforward advice to anyone who might be running out of time.


Randy during his last lecture


Time must be explicitly managed, like money.

You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.

Break big tasks into small ones and put them on lists.

Ask yourself if you’re spending time on the right stuff.

Develop a good filing system and stick with it.

Get yourself a speakerphone so your hands can stay busy.

Learn to delegate, and especially empower younger people.

Make occasional time for a genuine time out.

To those who heard Randy’s reminders, and those who have read The Last Lecture in book form, it seems incredible that such straightforward suggestions can come from a terminally ill person. Running out of time, Randy’s remaining days were joyful — not that he was going to receive some special dispensation, but he was empowered with the idea that people can be simple bridges to one another. Life itself will go on after we depart, and there will be others eager to keep the faith of trying to figure things out and pass on their findings. Our world is a moldable, improvable place.

Randy Pausch died on July 25, 2008. He was 47 years old.


“The Last Lecture”
a book on Randy’s last lecture

Best regards,


PS: “Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think.” (Randy Pausch)

Esoterica: Randy was upbeat and witty during his lecture, alternating between wisecracks and insights on computer science and engineering education. After doing a few push-ups on stage, he gave advice on building multi-disciplinary collaborations, working in groups and interacting with others, and offered inspirational life lessons. Speakers who followed up were in tears. CMU will celebrate Pausch’s impact on the world with a raised pedestrian bridge to connect the new Computer Science Building and the Center for the Arts, symbolizing the way Pausch linked disciplines.


Last days
by Edna Hildebrandt, Toronto, ON, Canada

The advice he listed is probably very effective and planning is really good. I don’t know if he removed himself completely from his family and if he did I don’t agree. I think bringing the family with the grandparents is excellent but not being with them is depriving them of their time together with the last moments of his life. We try to protect children from the harsh realities of life but I think it is misplaced. It is sad that he had a short lease in life and the plan is well thought out. I think the experience that they would have sharing and experiencing what their father goes through would give them time to adjust to his passing. It will build strength in their character.

There are 7 comments for Last days by Edna Hildebrandt

From: Anonymous — Jul 27, 2009

God bless him but doesn’t it seem he is getting a lot of attention because he had credentials. He is making a lot of money for his family as he dies. I feel that many people acquire incredible wisdom as they are about to pass. We as a nation seem to honor those that have been big in the academic world. They are the “smartess” so what they say is worth listening to. Hey what about the rest of us?

From: Laura — Jul 27, 2009

The rest of us may have something worth listening to, but he took the time and effort to say it. Randy got a lot of attention because he touched hearts, the words were not from his credentials.

From: Leslie Edwards Humez — Jul 28, 2009
From: Ruth McNally Barshaw — Jul 28, 2009

Edna, listen to his lecture or check out his book from the library. Your concerns are valid but not for his case. (thanks for the link, Leslie)

From: Anonymous — Jul 28, 2009

Well said Laura. He touched hearts not because he set out to do a big work that people would remember him for, but because he was an incredibly caring human being.

From: Anonymous — Jul 28, 2009

In response to the first comment, I think that Randy moved his family to be closer to the grandparents, so that they could have the extra support to go through this trying time and all be together. The children were with him throughout the last months and weeks, I think, not separated.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Jul 28, 2009

Robert wrote: “Feeling the need to spend as much time as possible with his family, Randy cleared his desk and moved his wife, Jai, and their three young children, Dylan, Logan and Chloe, to another state…” What I read is that he quit his job and moved with his family so that his children could be close to their grandparents during this transition in their lives. It does help to be clear about the facts before passing judgement.


Baby steps
by Sandee Hazelbaker


“The road home”
original painting
by Sandee Hazelbaker

The letter about Randy Pausch this morning really hit home for me. My husband of 43 years also lost his life to Pancreatic Cancer this March. Diagnosed in December just 3 months before he passed away we were given no warning of what was to be a life changing world for both of us. He was the best husband anyone could have ever wished for, doing everything I ever asked of him and he was a huge factor in the community volunteering and giving of his time. He was able to manage his time so perfectly, accomplishing mountains of work by taking little steps. I always admired this about him because I am a go-full-out kind of girl and then collapse before the task at hand is finished. When time does allow for me to pick up my brushes now I feel pressured to turn something out that is a masterpiece and will make it to the Gallery but my last two attempts at this have ended up making their way to the trash bin. So the letter this morning helped me to reinforce what I saw in my husband. Baby steps make for giant gains. This may be easier said than done but I will try to become a better master at this. The past few months have been terribly painful but thankfully my art will continue to aid in my ability to survive alone. I just wanted you to know how much your letters mean to me and especially this one today. Pancreatic cancer has to be the worst, giving no mercy at all for its victims. Thankfully many wonderful supporters have surrounded my family and myself and with their help and Gods grace I will survive.

There are 3 comments for Baby steps by Sandee Hazelbaker

From: Mary Lewis — Jul 28, 2009

I lost my dad to Pancreatic cancer and my husband to Prostate cancer and I really agree with you that Pancreatic is the worst. I love your painting “The Road Home” and really understand how being able to create can give a sort of comfort. Even “baby steps” help!

From: Tina Steele Lindsey — Jul 28, 2009

Dear Sandee, I was so sorry and saddened to read the loss of your beloved husband of 43 years. My heart goes out to you and your family. Your piece, The Road Home is beautifully symbolic. Please know I am sending thoughts your way today, and lifting a prayer above.

From: Susan Shore — Jul 29, 2009

I was helping my elderly father-in-law to find a care home to move into this week and the caregiver spoke of the previous tenant as “going home”. She was in her nineties when she passed away. Having the faith to believe that our loved ones are going home rather than just leaving us gives us all hope. Your painting is a beautiful reminder of that.


Building nets
by Bill Smith, Duluth, GA, USA

Randy was a special individual that showed us all how to live when we are destined to die. It is not that we will succumb to a disease as he had but how we leave this world that makes a difference. He has shepherded many in his journey and for that we should be thankful. As he said, for those who are left behind, we can build nets to catch them as they fall. He built nets for more than he knows.

There is 1 comment for Building nets by Bill Smith

From: Tina Steele Lindsey — Jul 28, 2009

Beautifully written, Bill.


Accelerating years
by Daniel DuBois, Toronto, ON, Canada


“MV English River, December”
oil painting, 20 x 24 inches
by Daniel DuBois

It’s amazing how clear things get when you start running out of something. Priorities seem to establish themselves: obsessions that earlier in life hogged all kinds of think-space melt away, and suddenly holding a grudge takes too much time. As far as I know, I am not dying but in my late fifties I am pointedly aware that things are coming to an end. At this point in my life, the years accelerate, like sliding down a greased shuttle. It is, paradoxically, a happy time, a time of clarity and love and of incredible focus. A time of dreams and observation.

There are 4 comments for Accelerating years by Daniel DuBois

From: Mishcka — Jul 27, 2009

Excellent painting!

From: Nikki — Jul 28, 2009

Excellent words!

From: Angela — Jul 28, 2009

Very much so Dan. Our golden years at full throttle.

From: Tina Steele Lindsey — Jul 28, 2009

Daniel, your words, so true. I often wonder who in the world keeps advancing the clock hands forward right in the middle of my living. We are not promised another day, we must focus on what is truly important each day, and be thankful for each blessing our way.


Life is a rehearsal
by Robert Head

When you talk about someone running out of time, it is almost as if there is an inference that they should have had more — that 47 years was too short. True, it was not a long time, but then and again neither is 97 years, in the general history of the cosmos. We all live an allotted time. Many terminally ill people are said to “be at peace” when their time comes. It is in the knowing, and accepting.

Dying suddenly, unexpectedly, with at best a few moments to realize what is happening, is likely much more difficult, at any age. Foresight is a gift. I do not live my life like every today is my last, rather, I live my life like every tomorrow might be my last. I look forward to my tomorrows. One day, I will not realize my plans for the next day, and so be it, I will have lived as many days as possible as well as possible. Long term plans are there, but they are kind of wishful thinking on my part, and hopes for those who may survive me. I do not treat life like a retirement budget. I do not sacrifice today for a tomorrow that is years away, if at all. I do not buy in to “retirement” in the modern sense. My retirement will be my passing, and until that time, I have much to do. As an artist, I know some people have less regard for one’s work until the artist has died, but I do not care a whit what they think. I care about the art as art, not investment for others. Let the vultures hover, and outlive them as best you can. I just cannot believe death is the end, rather I think we have it wrong — I believe life only starts in death, and this thing we call life is the rehearsal. And there is nothing wrong with a good rehearsal. Just don’t get your knickers in a knot if you blow your lines a bit.

There are 3 comments for Life is a rehearsal by Robert Head

From: Thankful 4 you — Jul 28, 2009

I totally understand and get your message. I’ve read and re-read it several times to be certain I understand it. It is brilliant. And I believe as you life is a rehearsal. I smile each time I come to your last line.

From: Anonymous — Jul 28, 2009

I like this very much. Some profound thoughts expressed here, in a clear and concise delivery.

From: Gentlehawk James — Jul 29, 2009

Great insights and philosophy, Robert. I’ve heard it said that when you arrive on the Spirit side, you’re asked two questions about this one of many incarnations, “Did you dance in your Passion? Did you play in your Joy?” I feel you will answer an emphatic “yes” to both.


Maturing as an artist
by Linda Blondheim, Gainesville, FL, USA


“Fair Oaks Farm Summer”
acrylic painting, 20 x 36 inches
by Linda Blondheim

As I mature as an artist I come to understand that time does indeed run out. I know not when, but I am much more aware of wanting to make my time valuable and useful for important things to me. I am far less willing to waste it doing mindless things that someone else wants me to do. I think I have become focused more on my painting time and less on social time as I have matured. I do not go to meetings for any reason. I never call anyone for more than a few minutes, preferring email, which is far more efficient. My basic rule is yes, if I wish to do it, and no if I don’t. It is easy to be drained dry by social and charitable commitments.

There are 2 comments for Maturing as an artist by Linda Blondheim

From: Ken Flitton — Jul 28, 2009

Super painting!! A very successful business man in Vancouver whom Robert probably knows, Jimmie Pattison has a very simple credo for what he decides to accomplish: “Cannawanna” Can he do it, and does he want to. If yes to both, away he goes!!

From: Marilyn Witt — Jul 29, 2009

Linda, This is a beautiful painting. You just want to step into it.


Finding the fine balance
by Elsha Leventis, Toronto, ON, Canada


“Squinting II”
original painting, 33 x 30 inches
by Elsha Leventis

Randy Pausch inspired and awed with his courage despite his terrible disease and impending death. His story reminds us, too, that as Lennon said, “Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans.” It’s important to remember that we are human beings, and not just human doings. We have to find the fine balance between being and doing everyday. We need to make plans and lists, yes, but we also need to know when to put them aside to watch a baby sleep or a sunset spread its glow across buildings, to listen to music or our children or parents or partners, or just sit awhile in awe of being alive. I am guessing that no one on their last breath wishes he or she had worked harder — the trick is to figure out the things that we would regret not having experienced, and then do them. Before time runs out.

There are 2 comments for Finding the fine balance by Elsha Leventis

From: Tina Steele Lindsey — Jul 28, 2009


From: Marti Schmidt — Jul 31, 2009


Thanks for your comment…

I love your painting and your words. It is important to remember these things!


Rest and relaxation
by Eleanor Blair, Gainesville, FL, USA


“Denali, Alaska”
oil painting, 18 x 36 inches
by Eleanor Blair

My maternal grandmother just passed away at 99. My other three grandparents died when they were in their mid-sixties. I’m 62. I like to think that I take after my grandmother, but statistically perhaps not. None of us knows how much time we have, and I may have decades left, but I find it very useful to consider that perhaps I don’t. It makes it easier to decide what’s important, and what’s not so important. Lately I’ve been trying to design more rest and relaxation into every day. Paradoxically, I’ve been getting a lot more painting done.


Attitude and Art
by Hazel Robinson, CA, USA


“Raku Tower”
by Hazel Robinson

It’s all about attitude! Everyone has limited time. Dwelling on “how much” stops me cold. I’ve lost several months of time since I was told that my time is running out and I can’t get those back but the next few months should be fairly productive since I’ve decided that what time I have is mine. I’m old – don’t have to go to work in the morning, don’t have to be anywhere on time, can paint at two in the morning without disturbing anyone except the cat, and painting at two in the morning is sure better than tossing and turning and fussing about what can’t be helped. Besides, who knows, maybe I’ll beat this “thing” and live another few years more than the doctors predict. If so I’d like to be getting better and better at what I love. ART! Go for it with the best attitude you can manage and your attitude improves right along with your art.

There are 2 comments for Attitude and Art by Hazel Robinson

From: Anonymous — Jul 28, 2009

With an attitude that acceptance unfolds in stages, the judgment that we’re dwelling on anything is not helpful. I notice there’s less anguish and regret when trusting that time is never wasted. Darker, inert, less productive and sober periods are cyclical and a necessary foundation to understanding, creativity, faith and conviction that follow. Our best attitude might embrace those times when we are confused and unable to find expression for the strongest of emotions. It’s OK to not be productive, especially when it’s just not possible. A gamut of rest and unrest re/negotiate the power and determination behind our work, and art can result from any state of mind. Sounds like you’ve finally given yourself the permission to do whatever you are capable of at any given time…all the best to you, Hazel.

From: Anon. — Jul 28, 2009

Hazel, you are an inspiration. Your wisdom and your grit are extremely valuable. I’ve learned something important today, because of you, thank you.


Beautiful and peaceful ending
by Jacelyn Simonski, Seal Rock, OR, USA


“Golden hour”
original painting
by Jacelyn Simonski

It reminded me of my husband, Phil, who passed away on July 13th, 2009 of melanoma. He lived his life in the outdoors; as a lifeguard during the summers of his high school and college years; a 28 yr. career as a professional forester in eastern Oregon; 18 yrs. as a fishing guide; then another 6 years on the Oregon coast fishing and gardening; doing the things he loved until 5 weeks before his death. His years in the sun took their toll and he was diagnosed with melanoma (a 1/2″ black spot on the bottom of his foot) in 2005, but already a stage 3 cancer. After 2 surgeries the disease spread slowly at first but then 6 months ago began to spread rapidly until his entire leg and hip were totally involved and very painful, making it more difficult to get around. He continued to haul himself in and out of his boat to go fishing and was still gardening at our home on the coast until 5 weeks before his death. He kept a very positive and brave attitude throughout. We had only shared 5 years together but he told me often they were the best of his life.

His encouragement of my endeavors with my art was his greatest gift to me and I will continue to pursue that interest. I liked Randy’s list of things to keep in mind if one was running out of time, especially the one, “Ask yourself if you’re spending time on the right stuff.”


What can I do?
by David Oleski, West Chester, PA, USA


“Eleven green apples”
original painting, 60 x 84 inches
by David Oleski

So I try to share my struggles and challenges and shortcomings with my audience with this journal. Aside from revisiting the same yellow apples against a yellow background today, things have a way of being brought right back into perspective when you least expect it. Ever since a good friend of mine was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) about a year ago, life has become so much more fragile for me. It started with slurred speech, and when he accompanied me to a concert on New Year’s Eve he had trouble walking, or holding a fork. I don’t blame him for not answering his phone, or returning calls or emails, and today I got an email back from his sister. He can no longer drive, and he just sits and watches TV all day. He avoids talking on the phone because of his difficulty speaking, and can’t control his fingers enough to text or type. His desire to avoid being a burden to anyone has him spending his days alone.

Maybe someone out there can help me; I’m trying to figure out what I can do. At one time I believed I could help anyone do anything, in some way I wanted to be like a hero. I’ve had some mentors whose lessons have continued to guide me years later, and I’ve done my best to do the same for so many others. To be the good man, the guide, the inspiration, the motivation, or just the pugnacious challenge to step up and do one better. When I’ve been at some of my lowest points, I’ve shown others how to embrace adversity as a challenge, or as a measure of perseverance. This is beyond anything I’ve ever wanted to know about. There’s nothing I can say about this, I don’t even remember how life was before I knew a whole lot about ALS. Now I know so much, and all I can do is want to know that my friend is ready for this. Or maybe I need to be ready for this, to accept that he will slip away, and none of us will find anything good in any part of it.

One way or another I’ll be visiting him soon, maybe dragging him out and trying to find something to say about what comes next. We define each day by what we’re enjoying today, and what we’re building for tomorrow. We are all on this same path, only the rest of us believe we have time to see our efforts add up to something bigger. I always talk about what comes next, it seems as though I’m hardwired to believe that no matter what happens next, it will be an adventure of some sort. Even stepping through that great final door has a certain odd attraction. I’ve been pretty willful throughout my entire life, and I’d like to think at that moment I’d take a deep breath and just jump through. I cannot imagine what advice or input I could give someone who is facing this. This is a challenge as defined only on his own terms, and for once I can’t use my own perspective as any sort of comforting reference for what comes next. I guess “comfort” is the thing that I can’t find what that comfort could be, for him, for me, for any of us that are close to him. In every one of these entries, I refer to the unknown as the possibility of adventure, yet I can’t bring myself to believe that I don’t fear for the unknown for others. In my own heart, I can find stillness, and as much as I’d try to embrace the Buddhist sensibility of being one with the emptiness, with each day my actions describe that I rally against the passing of the light of each day, racing to lay down one more aspect of my view of the light of one day before another darkness. In my own way, I’m raging against the dying of the light, and for now, I have the energy to do this, and there’s nothing I can do to share this energy with my friend. The nerves that control his muscles are failing, what started at his fingertips will eventually reach the involuntary muscles of breathing, and then of a heartbeat. My eyes are burning and I can’t see very clearly now. There’s nothing I can do, and I can’t stand it.

There are 12 comments for What can I do? by David Oleski

From: Wanda Coffey — Jul 27, 2009

Please, please, open a Bible and embrace the One who came to give us all life and light. Jesus Christ is the light that you yearn for. Read the book of John in the New Testement. It will tell you about The Light that loves you beyond any human love.

From: Margot — Jul 27, 2009

Perhaps what he really needs is loving company – somebody who will hold his hand so he knows he’s not altogether alone. You could read to him, watch movies with him, take him for a long drive into scenic country. At this stage, he maybe doesn’t need or want your advice, he just needs to know that you really, really care, and perhaps be told how he made a difference/gave value to your life – that his life has true value, he made a difference………

From: Judy — Jul 27, 2009

David, just show him you care by going to see him. Sometimes, things that seem so difficult can be as simple & pure as your very lovely green apples.

From: Ginny in Florida — Jul 28, 2009

This is more a comment on the WHOLE topic rather than just David’s letter.

I rarely copy these clickbacks…but this morning I copied the WHOLE clickback to read and re-read. So many interesting and thoughtful comments. I am so glad whoever plans the inclusions, allowed for a wide variety of comments and even some longer ones. I wept over David’s.

Like so many of you I have lost 3 friends in the past two years to pancreatic cancer and and at my age (70) I am losing people right and left. Some very randomly. But then, I think all death is random. It is hard enough to contemplate living your own life as best you can, but then you are asked to take the final journal with friends as well! There is no real training for for how to do that. Our minister recently preached on “Back to Grover’s Corners”. Remember? Our Town? On Emily’s early death and her chance given my the angel and the stage manager, to go back for one more day to see an “ordinary” day. And come to find out there was nothing “ordinary” about that day. It was filled with the smell of coffee, the smell of fresh clothes off the line, and the sound of laughter. And it was indeed revealed to her then that hardly any of us appreciates the ordinary until it’s too late. The angel suggests “poets and saints might” but hardly anyone else. As artists we have a better chance than most. We have trained ourselves to really SEE the world. To look for the beauty in the ordinary. That is what our soul is: pure attentiveness. David should read (besides the book of John) Tuesdays with Morrie. And remember than his friend may indeed have some gifts to give HIM.

From: anonymous — Jul 28, 2009

David, you speak of wanting to tell him something that will ease his forthcoming unfortunate passage from this life – to deliver some sort of comforting inspirational concept. I urge you to inspire him to pass more easily by telling him how and why he was a mentor and/or inspiration to you and any others you know of. When life seems impossible and pointless I can only find comfort in thinking of those I love and who love me and our shared experiences. Tell him why you are his friend and all the wonderful moments his words, wisdom, existence have brought to your life; that he will live forever in your heart and mind. That would be a reassuring and calming message for your friend to fall asleep upon.

From: Gene Martin — Jul 28, 2009

Be his friend David. Spend time with him. I could have written most of your letter because age lingers on my mind as well. I too take comfort in my bible and my faith but I am also given comfort by a bit of zen philosophy. Minutes, hours and days are but a tiny part of infinity. Therefor we exist now in infinity, always have existed and always will, forever. In my mind the only question I have ever had is where do we go from here. In the bible I found my answer. May God bless you for being a true friend.

From: Pam — Jul 28, 2009

Hello David,

What a lovely, deep, caring person you are.

Remember that on a soul level there are no mistakes in life. What your friend is going through is probably something he chose to experience before he was ever born. Perhaps you chose it together? When you visit him again maybe tell him how helpless you feel, but do remember that none of us are our bodies, we are spirit. We are the energy and the light, it is eternal. Ultimately there is nothing more important than to be able to be at peace with whatever occurs….we do not have to fix anything just be curious to see what happens next :-)

Wishing you peace and blessings,


From: Madeline from Oregon — Jul 28, 2009

Thank you, David, for telling us about your friend. And thank you to the people who wrote comments ahead of mine. They are helpful to me, because I am caring for a dear, dear friend (Greg, who is my ex-husband) as he deteriorates from fronto-temporal dementia. Of course, all the physical things we do for our dying or failing friends communicate love and caring, but I agree with the last posters, that telling someone that they have made a difference, that they continue to be important because of the example of their lives is also helpful. Greg can still understand what I say, even though many times he can not utter a complete sentence. He can still indicate his own preferences, if I give him a choice, and giving him a choice is an acknowledgement that he is not yet gone, that he can still “act” in the world, that he has some control over his own life.

Love and support to all readers who have to deal with life/death issues and all that is in between. Let’s not forget that our own painting is an affirmation of life itself, and shows a belief in our own creativity. I have found that the simple act of painting reaffirms me and who I am, apart from caregiver. It also lifts me away from the grief of watching the life and personality of my friend disappear, and reminds me that I am nourishing myself, taking care of myself, even as I give all I can to him.

Painting as therapy. Yes! Oh… and Greg loves to see my new paintings. It helps relieve him of guilt that he is taking too much of my life.

From: Dee Sager — Jul 28, 2009

Dear Pam,

While it seems that our belief systems mirror, you have put it into words in a way that I could not. Thanks you.

Over the years I have learned hard lessons on how to “be” with someone in the last stages of their life and that is to “be there.” Let that person know that you love them and tell them why. Sit with them and hold hands. Touch them. Think to yourself, if I were in that position, what would I want? and then provide it. Perhaps something as silly as an ice cream cone or as spiritual as a visit to a favorite countryside setting. Really – it doesn’t matter. Just being there is what counts.

From: Kathryn E. Norman — Jul 28, 2009
From: Vic — Jul 28, 2009

It is a lonely time for someone with a terminal illness.They need someone to listen

From: L Perrella — Aug 14, 2009

David, thank you for expressing your doubt and confusion in a frank open way. Perhaps this will help to add to the overall wisdom expressed here?: When my mother started displaying the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease/dementia, my own thoughts and reactions were clouded over by MY own drama. All those feelings: “Its not fair. Why is this happening to MY mother? She doesn’t deserve this.”, etc. I was mourning the fact that my mother – a wonderful woman and the best Mom ever — was about to be engulfed by a horrible disease. But, eventually, I realized that I needed to get a new, different focus — otherwise, I would never be able to truly “be there” for my mother during her remaining life. Luckily, I found a great counsellor to talk to – someone who has the gift of acute Listening – and was able to get my own “chatter” out of the way. After that, I feel I was able to really be present for my mother. Get some help, see the process through, and then I believe you will be an amazing end-of-life resource for your friend. Wishing both of you all the best.





5-colour stone lithograph, 20 x 26.5 inches
by Betty Sommerville, BC, Canada


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Pene Horton of Sidney, BC, Canada, who wrote, “When your time is used up, you are used up. Dead, some call it.”


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Running out of time



From: Dorenda Crager Watson — Jul 23, 2009

I greatly believe in the work and words of Randy Pausch. His lecture was one of reasons that I began to take myself more seriously as an living, breathing, working artist on a mission. May I also add that simplifying your life in terms of time, things and (certain) people will greatly expand your time to do the work you were put here to do, whatever that may be. I have found this to be amazingly true anyway.

From: Nancy O’Toole — Jul 23, 2009

A wonderful man…who shared his life & upcoming death experiences with all of us! One of my favourite quotes that I remember he said was something that I repeat to myself as well as my sudents, is;

“Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted”! Isn’t that the truth! It applies to all life, death …to everything we do…. including making art!

From: Brenda Poole — Jul 24, 2009

It is a great story but it is already old news most people have already read it and moved on. Please don’t think I am dismissing such wonderful advice it’s just old advice that we all should already know. I like the country music star Tim McGraw version a little better, Live Like You Are Dying. If you had only a day, week, or month to live and you had no more what would you do? Live like this all the time and all the time you will be truly living. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, professor, or movie star to tell us what we already know. Life is short make the most of it.

From: Joseph Murray — Jul 24, 2009

Looks like the system failed me the first time I wrote . So I will summarize again. Pausch was a genius in his career but more importantly because he recognized that a interdisciplinary approach to life’s situations was very important . He knew that we all get isolated within our chosen disciplines or careers thinking that this is the “chosen” way for us . I believe that scientists and artists have much in common . Supposedly we just use different hemispheres in our brains to get to our chosen path . I think that is pure blah ! It always interests me to visit with researchers to find out that the more they think they know — the less they really know . Knowledge leads to more questions than answers . If we all used a interdisciplinary approach to life’s situations we would be better off . Left hemisphere-right hemisphere who cares if we get to the right solution for us .

Pausch was very acutely aware of the human tendencies to put off reality or enjoyment for another day . He should be required reading for all of us that delay our true gratifications in life. Enjoy today — cause tommorrow might not show up — should be a song or something !

Personally, I decided in 2000 that my life cycle was waning and I needed to make a huge decision concerning my life’s dream of becoming a full time artist. Did it. Built a studio/gallery and became a full time artist. Certainly have learned a lot and never have regretted the decision. We reduced our life style but increased the quality of our life . How cool that concept is !

From: Jackie Knott — Jul 25, 2009

We’ve all been sidetracked by one thing or another with our art over the years. A life event or milestone is sometimes helpful to get us focused. I’ve only now been able to devote the time to my art I’ve wanted to. Family, making a living, career demands, relocating, whatever. For some of us, art isn’t our “encore career,” but finally being free enough, selfish enough to pursue a life long goal. Squandering time isn’t a casual option as it was in my youth.

Hopefully, when we are faced with what Randy Pausch dealt with, we will do so with as much grace as he had.

From: Rick Rotante — Jul 27, 2009

Live for today and think about tomorrow. Today we can count on, tomorrow is a maybe. Now that I’m sixty years young, I think of the time wasted. I don’t lament or dwell on this time lost but try and use what time I still have to make up for some of the things I didn’t do. Maybe this is a trait of those getting older maybe not. Youth rarely thinks of dieing, in fact nature has made us indestructable when young, or more resiliant to breakage, at least in our mind. I was reckless when in my teens and twenties as many of you. Now I see a horizon. Mind you it doesn’t slow me down, in fact I’ve learned to smell some roses along the way. I’ve mellowed and don’t take too many risks other than at my easel. I still don’t wear a helmet when I ride a bike. I guess the risk taker is still looming underneath.

From: Darrell Baschak — Jul 27, 2009

My father has been struck down with a hemorrhagic stroke and now lies in a hospital bed, seemingly unresponsive to the world around him. I thought I was prepared for that day, I have read all the current literature, listened to the pastors and preachers and friends. In the end it is between you and your maker and your heart. I have learned how dignified one can be when death approaches and also how family can truly be as one when in the presence of a loved one who is passing on. It is a strangely beautiful and precious gift we are all given and as hard as it is to lose him I thank him for his life and what he has left us with.

From: Phil Chadwick — Jul 27, 2009

A dear friend, Jane Champagne – a real name and a really bubbly person and close friend, introduced me to your work. Sadly Jane passed away in 2008 like Pausch but enthused many like-minded artists to carry on. I guess I am one of those although weather pays the bills and there is weather every day – and I don’t even need to be right. Life is indeed good!

From: Adele Bergstrom — Jul 27, 2009

I have never sent you feedback the entire time I’ve been enjoying your weekly emails but today’s piece on Randy Pausch reminded me not only that I want to read his book but also to take a deep breath, relax a little and remember what’s important in my life.

Thank you for sharing this–and for all the insights on art that you share.

From: Shannon Hill Schaupp — Jul 27, 2009

I must say, Robert, you did a great job of tying Randy’s testimony into life lessons in art. I happened to see his video and your message gives his a beautiful, expanded perspective. I began painting again after almost 30 yrs. to have something to pass on to my sons, their wives and their children. This has somehow given a deeper meaning and new energy to my mission that I can’t really explain. Can’t wait to paint! Thanks, Shannon

From: Martin — Jul 27, 2009

A couple of years back I suffered a relativley mild heart attack, I was 47 at the time. After returning to work 6 weeks later I carried on as before – full steam ahead. Not wise. I suffered burnout and was away for nearly a year. During this time I learnt to meditate and started yoga. My connection to God re-established and since then ( Fall 2007) I have learnt a very important lesson; Live for today.

Your piece about Randy Pausch reminded me how quickly things can change. Unlike Randy I was given a stay of execution, but in my own way I try to pass the message to anyone who wants to hear; it’s been said before and will be said many times again – live for the moment. “Here today, gone tomorrow”. Get your life in perspective and consider whats really important – it’s not difficult, and it could be your last chance.

From: Naoko Matsubara — Jul 27, 2009

I happened to spend a year making my Master’s degree at the CMU (then called

Carnegie Institute of Technology) back in 1962. I visited my old school two

month ago where Dean of the Art School, the former professors gathered and

gave me a congratulation lunch right after I received the Honorary Doctorate

of Fine Art from the Chatham University in Pittsburgh.

I admire the way you can continue writing so many aspects of art, artists

and life.

From: Paula Christen — Jul 27, 2009

Three items on your list really resonate: take time out, ask yourself if you are spending time on the right stuff and learn to delegate.

If each one of us just did those three things once or twice a year we would all be happier and be closer to leading authentic lives. It is amazing how many layers are voluntarily added to our schedules when we say “Yes” so people won’t feel disappointed or feel the job will only be done right if we do it.

From: Paol — Jul 27, 2009

Time is a so futile and such a big part of the imminent illusion , since we ‘re born time is part of our life…. we cannot escape it … we have to find re-comfort in it … Randy same as the child in Africa dying from poor nutrition find the way to express it . lets have some lighter subject next time.

From: Myra Abelson — Jul 27, 2009

I look forward to your letters each week, eager to see what you’ve been thinking about, sometimes to be validated, and often to be inspired to look at something differently. I am never disappointed and always I’m touched and reminded that we are a community of artists who have been given a gift to experience life and the world around us in a way that enhances our being. I was especially moved today. Thank you for sharing with us.

From: Mark Brennan — Jul 27, 2009

I am blackberrying you from my tent in the cape breton highlands national park, nova Scotia. Your letter, running out of time, hit home. None of us knows what the future holds. I am a landscape painter and also work in a hospital part time. I am grateful for this experience as it has really made me think about my own mortality seeing the sick and the dying day after day. My 12 year old daughter is here beside me in our tent, I want to ask her about what she thinks of death right now but know that she is too young. If I could tell her just one thing it would be to wake up each morning and live your life like it were the last day. I am not ready to say that too her, but today after a day exploring the wilderness of this wonderful national park I feel we lived life as if it were our last day. What more can I ask. Best wishes and thanks for making us think.

From: Haim Mizrahi — Jul 27, 2009

It is a shame that one needs to learn of a disease before one feels the urgency to create and treat time more respectfully

From: Bernard Fierro — Jul 27, 2009

My favorite piece of advice is “Live as though you were dead already”

From: Gabriella Morrison — Jul 27, 2009

About 48 years ago, my wise and beloved high School art teacher, Donald Joplin, commented to our Grade 9 class that we should attempt to “see” each day as if tomorrow we would be struck blind. During the intervening years I have extrapolated this to all aspects of existence and experience. I wonder how many of Donald Joplin’s many students have held dear for a lifetime his wisdom. I am sure I am not the only one, and am thankful my path happened to cross his so early in my life. My vision has been failing me for the past three years. Instead of bemoaning this loss and losing faith, I have found other doors to creation and self-expression opening for me. The adventure continues, until it finally ends.

From: Karen R. Phinney — Jul 28, 2009

There are some profound truths here. The one that comes through is, “live in the moment”. This is something I’ve been learning to do for the past few years, enjoying what “today” is all about. Don’t regret the past or worry too much about the future. Now is really all we have. As I am wont to say to friends, “a piano could fall on you when you least expect it.” I get up each day, meditate, and am grateful for the day. Gratitude for this moment is powerful. Am appreciative of all the comments, how thoughtful everyone is, and the kindness shown and intended for friends and family who are suffering. Blessings to all………

From: David Wallis — Jul 28, 2009

just heard this on the radio……’there is no such thing as time, only this moment’……….

From: Betty — Jul 28, 2009

Being 80 yr young I feel the same way,,although I’m quite healthy for my age… I have this burning desire to just keep on painting and enjoy my life, family and multitudes of great friends

From: Lynn — Jul 28, 2009

Isn’t it strange…from the moment we’re born we are dying, yet right up to the moment of death we are alive. Maybe any supposed distinction between the two states is simply a construct of our minds.

From: Elana Winsberg — Nov 01, 2013
From: Kimberly from Dallas — Nov 01, 2013

I am so sorry to lose you, Robert, but I am so very grateful that I have all your life-lesson-letters, and thus, a little piece of you. Your letters inspire so many people and I will further that as best I can. I can’t believe I won’t be receiving them forever!!! I can’t describe how spot-on you have been in every letter. Such great insight, wit, brilliance, and yes, psychology. What quiet, profound wisdom you showed us. Folks, you KNOW it isn’t about ART at all, but the human condition. THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART. I will miss you terribly. Did I not hear of a high school student who found a cure for pancreatic cancer? I hope so. Hold on Robert until they can figure this thing out!!! Love to you and your family. I would have been a clingy best friend, if I lived in your part of the world!

From: Eileen — Nov 03, 2013

I have only recently discovered your website Robert & found it so interesting. I am so sorry to hear of your illness. I will pray for you & I wish you peace & acceptance in your life & hopefully a cure.



Leave A Reply

No Featured Workshop
No Featured Workshop