Before we left for our vacation, I managed to run by the library and pick up two books from my "to read" list. The first was When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. The second was Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Very different books, but both are worth reading. I will share my thoughts on Richard Louv's book tomorrow in my Outside 365 post.
I first heard of Paul Kalanithi's story on the blog A Cup of Jo. Paul was married to Jo's twin sister and the unexpected news of his brain tumor was gut wrenching. It was the beginning of 2014 and Paul had written an essay that had been published in The New York Times of what it was like to be a neurosurgeon diagnosed with a brain tumor. His essay was raw and personal. He was close to my age and the whole scenario had me weeping at my computer. For him. For his wife.
A little over a year later, Paul died. It was shocking and sad. He left behind his wife, child, parents, siblings.
A year after Paul's death his memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, was published. In the pages of this book, Paul outlines his journey to neurosurgery, his search for meaning, and his experience facing death on a very personal level – with the irony of dying by brain tumor.
Paul was certainly taken from this life too soon. He had a profound perspective that we can't understand, until we too face death. And even then his perspective is different due to his age and knowledge of impending death. I will leave you with some of the passages from the book that have stayed with me:
As I sat there, I realized that the questions intersecting life, death, and meaning, questions that all people face at some point, usually arise in the medical context.
Death comes for us all. For us, for our patients; it is our fate as living, breathing, metabolizing organisms.
Grand illnesses are supposed to be life clarifying. Instead I knew I was going to die – but I'd known that before. My state of knowledge was the same, but my ability to make lunch plans had been shot to hell.
Yet I returned to the central values of Christianity – sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness – because I found them so compelling. There is tension in the Bible between justice and mercy, between the Old Testament and the New Testament. And the New Testament says you can never be good enough: goodness is the thing, and you can never live up to it. The main message of Jesus, I believed, is that mercy trumps justice every time.
On a lighter note, here is a sampling of what I've been reading online lately:
No Food is Healthy, Not Even Kale via The Washington Post
How to Listen When You Disagree via Urban Confessional
Race, Truth and Our Two Realities via The New York Times
Why Calls for "Unity" in American Politics are Not Enough via Quartz
A Few Thoughts on Unity via Design for Mankind
Encouraging Everyone to Vote Is Like Telling Everyone... via Mike Rowe
Nine Ways Lazy Parenting Helps Grow Great Grown Ups via Anna Rosenblum Palmer
The Great School Diaspora via Discover Praxis
What Your Kids Need to Know Before Starting School via Babble