Chapter 22 Summary

The Truth Can Set You Free

Pausch is driving near his new home in Virginia and is not paying close enough attention to the speed limit. As a result of his inattention, he is pulled over by a local police officer who, of course, asks to see his driver’s license and registration. Pausch hands him both documents, and the officer notes his address in Pittsburgh on his Pennsylvania driver’s license.

The officer asks if Pausch is here as part of the military, but Pausch explains he has just moved to Virginia and has not yet had an opportunity to get his new license or register his vehicle. The officer asks what brought him to this area. It is a direct question and Pausch, without giving it too much thought, tells him the truth: he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he moved his family here to be close to his wife’s family so she will have their support when he dies.

The officer gives him an appraising look and seems skeptical when he repeats the most salient fact, that Pausch has cancer. He is clearly trying to determine if this man is lying to him or if he is really dying. After giving Pausch a long, appraising look, the officer remarks that he looks very good for a guy who only has a few months to live.

Obviously the officer has no way of knowing whether Pausch is telling the truth, and he certainly does not want to be duped by a phony story designed to play on his sympathy. It is a fine line the officer is walking, for he must do the impossible—question this man’s integrity without actually calling him a liar. It is an interesting dilemma for Pausch, being forced to prove that he is telling the truth, and he wonders how he can do that.

He admits to the officer the irony that he looks so healthy on the outside but the tumors are eating him alive on the inside. Again without much thought, Pausch pulls up his shirt and shows the officer the surgical scars on his abdomen. The policeman looks from the scar to Pausch’s face and knows he is looking at a dying man. As he hands back the license and registration, he asks Pausch to do him a favor and slow down.

Pausch has never been one who could talk his way out of a ticket, but this time his awful truth has set him free.