When Breath Becomes Air; What Makes Life Worth Living in the Face of Death by Paul Kalanithi is a beautiful and inspirational read that I would recommend to everyone. It can powerfully change one’s perception and approach to one’s mortality, being diagnosed with or being surrounded by anothers’ terminal illness. It courageously looks at what you do when life is suddenly turned upside down and how your whole identity has to shift. It explores what it means to have a child as your own life fades away and what makes life worth living in the face of death.
“Although these last few years have been wrenching and difficult – sometimes almost impossible – they have also been the most beautiful and profound of my life, requiring the daily act of holding life and death, joy and pain in balance and exploring new depths of gratitude and love…Paul faced each stage of his illness with grace-not with bravado or misguided faith that he would “overcome” or “beat” cancer but with an authenticity that allowed him to grieve the loss of the future he had planned and forge a new one…He let himself be open and vulnerable, let himself be comforted. Even when terminally ill, Paul was fully alive; despite physical collapse he remained vigorous, open, full of hope not for an unlikely cure but for days that were full of purpose and meaning” (p.219).
“I’m still taking part in the life we created together. “Bereavement is not the truncation of married love” C.S. Lewis wrote, “but one of its regular phases-like the honeymoon. What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase too.” Caring for our daughter, nurturing relationships with family, publishing this book, pursuing meaningful work, visiting Paul’s grave, grieving and honouring him, persisting…my love goes on-lives on-in a way I’d never expected” (p.224 – Lucy Kalanithi)
“You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving” (p.115)