Have you ever wondered, “Why to live when we are going to die anyway?” If your answer is yes, then I highly recommend you read the book I am going to discuss about today. When Breath Becomes Air is a non-fiction Autobiography written by Paul Kalanithi.
At age 36, after years and years of relentless training: Paul’s journey from a medical student to a professor of neurosurgery was almost complete. He had won prestigious awards during his residency and had also begun fielding calls from reputed universities. Paul had reached the mountaintop; he could feel the tension in his back unwinding. At last, he could finally think about settling down with Lucy. Like any human being, he could not help, but daydream about chilling on the beach with his soon-to-be wife and hypothetical child. But for Paul, life had different plans.
When Breath Becomes Air (Review)
Somewhere in his last year of residency, paul started experiencing: bouts of severe chest pain, drastic weight loss, and developed a persistent cough. And just like that, his life was changed, he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, with that the future he had imagined, evaporated. As he puts on the plastic bracelet, the familiar blue gown – he feels the irony. Paul was always possessed by the question “What, given that all organisms die makes a virtuous and meaningful life.” and now he was going to get a first-hand experience. This book speaks about uncertainty and how one can choose to live with it, as Paul believes, “There’s always a choice.”
Traversing the line from a doctor to a patient; from subject to object; Paul tells us what it’s like – living with death’s shadow. Kalanithi viewed his illness from two perspectives: the physician and the patient. The patient side of him made him question, “Why me?” and the doctor answered, “Why not me?” I think for me this is the biggest take away from this book. Why push yourself and look at the positive side when you are going to die anyway? Because you can. Because until you die, you are living."Traversing the line from a doctor to a patient; from subject to object; Paul tells us what it's like – living with death's shadow." Click To Tweet
Pauls’s voice in “When Breath Becomes Air” is powerful and unique. As said by Lucy, in the last chapter of the book (Warning: THIS CHAP WILL MAKE YOU CRY), “this book carries the urgency of racing against time, of having important things to say. Paul confronted death – examined it, wrestled it, accepted it – as a physician and a patient. He did more than just describe the terrain; He traversed it bravely.”
“His decision not to avert his eyes from death epitomizes a fortitude we don’t celebrate enough in our death avoidant culture.”
In this Memoir, Paul teaches us how it is so important to face death with integrity and courage. He tells us its okay to be frail but never be weak. In his last few days, paul relied on his strength and his family’s support and traversed through every stage of his illness with grace – not by waiting for a “Miracle” to cure him but with an authenticity that allowed him to accept his fate and forge a new life. Kalanithi, tells us the best trick to deal with pain or any sort of unfortunate event is to – accept the fate and move forward with elegance. I found this book, or rather this book found me when I was grappling with my personal loss, and therefore, for me, this memoir is nothing short of magic. At this day, Paul may not be with us, but he has left us with this work of art – to which we readers will forever be grateful. Wherever Paul is today, I believe he died knowing that these words will make his way into the world, and through that, he will be able to help others.