I’m so excited to tell you a little about the book When Breath Becomes Air. I heard about the book several months ago, and immediately added it to my “to read” shelf on good reads. I ended up reading it last week during a flight (yes- in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down), and I’ll tell you that the ending to the book, especially the epilogue, had me in tears. Yes. I was that person sitting on a plane crying while reading- yikes.
When Breath Becomes Air is written by Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgery chief resident who was diagnosed with lung cancer. From the start of the book, we learn that he passed away in 2015, so I’m not spoiling anything by telling you this. This book is his personal memoir of facing death. He lets the reader in to his wrestling on how to live well when looking death in the face, on how to suffer well.
Here are a few quotes that stood out to me:
“Lucy and I both felt that life wasn’t about avoiding suffering.”
“The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. It felt like someone had taken away my credit card and I was having to learn how to budget. You may decide you want to spend your time working as a neurosurgeon, but two months later, you may feel differently. Two months after that, you may want to learn to play the saxophone or devote yourself to the church. Death may be a one-time event, but living with terminal illness is a process.”
This book deeply moved me, and I’m so thankful that people had so strongly encouraged me to read Paul’s story. The book ends with an epilogue written by his wife, since Paul didn’t live long enough to finish his own story. But that’s the beauty of life with our loved ones: when we pass away, our loved ones carry our story on for us, and this book does it beautifully.
If you’re looking for more book suggestions, check out my book reviews page.