When Breath Becomes Air is my bedside table book. A book that every day reminds me of priorities and hope in life. A book I will go back to probably many times in the coming years.
A 37-year old doctor at the end of his residency with life just beginning in a way, with hopes and dreams of his whole life in front of him, all of it shattered with a CT scan that shows his lungs filled with tumors.
It is fascinating to read how he tackles and reinvents himself during this period. Do we want to wait for such moments to know what matters in life? The 225-page book took a few weeks for me to complete. Reading, absorbing, re-reading..it was hard to read more than a few pages at a time.
Personally, nothing in my life had ever made me ponder or wonder about death per se. Well, I suppose not many in their 20s would want to have intense thoughts about death or uncertainties in life. Not until I read this book, more than death it made me ponder about life and the quality of life. Things we take for granted and about the uncertainties. About judging what we want and how we want to live now instead of waiting until a disaster happens.
The below is a message for his infant daughter. I went back to this paragraph many times which left me in tears. A daughter who would remember nothing about her bad but is hopefully going to understand in the future the joy she brought to a dying father in the limited time she spent with him.
When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.
And in addition to Dr.Kalanithi, the person whom I was inspired by was his wife. Lucy Kalanithi, also a doctor stood by him and lived the life they wanted until they could no more. She edited and wrote the epilogue of the book. I got to see an interview of her on Charlie Rose and the first thing that struck me was, she probably went through a lot as well and still is. But she was making sure her husband’s story is what is shed light on. She is the single mother of Cady, whom they decided to have after he was diagnosed, even though they very well knew he wasn’t going to be around.
If you ever get a chance please do read this book, it is powerful, heartbreaking and sometimes very intense but worth every emotion you will feel. And do let me know what is the latest book you are reading !