Jeffrey Zaslow, the newspaper writer turned bestselling author, died in a car accident on Friday at the age of 53. It is a stunningly tragic turn, but is also part of the message the book delivered: Life is short and we need to make each day count by living and loving to the fullest.
Zaslow's book The Last Lecture was co-written with Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie-Mellon, after Pausch delivered a stunning "last lecture" that became a worldwide phenomenon in 2007.
The Last Lecture is all about moments and what matters to people most. The original talk was called, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" but it was about so much more than that and Zaslow is the man who made it go viral. Sitting in the audience, he saw the power in Pausch's words and, in a piece for the Wall Street Journal, he let us all in on its beauty.
The column became a bestselling book and a new career for Zaslow. Following The Last Lecture, he wrote and co-wrote several other books that also made inspiring impacts, including one on Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Congresswoman who was shot last year and one on Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who landed an airliner on the Hudson River in New York.
But, for many, it was The Last Lecture that made Zaslow's most famous. Here is his co-writer Pausch delivering an abbreviated version of The Last Lecture on Oprah:
The message Pausch and Zaslow gave us is clear: Life is short and what we do with the time we have is absolutely crucial. Pausch and Zaslow pointed out that happiness is a choice and "fun" is a choice, too. Having fun until the end was the way Pausch lived (he died in 2008).
Zaslow's sudden death at 53, while all-too-tragic is also a lesson for us all. We never know when our last moments will come. The message in The Last Lecture came from a man who knew he was in the process of dying, but they are really crucial for everyone. Any one of us could meet our ends today or tomorrow.
Zaslow lived a heroic life and inspired millions by bringing us this amazing message of hope and his tragic death is just another lesson that the only moments any of us have are right here and right now.
Jeffrey Zaslow died young and that is tragic, but his legacy won't be forgotten. My heart goes out to his wife and three children.
Did you read The Last Lecture?
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