I completed When Breath Becomes Air last week. I found it to be rich and poignant. The final chapter (Epilogue) by Lucy Kalanithi, was so insightful and beautifully written! This is a book that those interested in palliative and pastoral care would do well to read to gain understanding and cultivate empathy.
When Breath Becomes Air
by Paul Kalanithi
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of
training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV
lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he
was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and
his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air
chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student
“possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all
organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon
at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human
identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own
What makes life worth living in the face of death?
What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in
life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a
child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of
the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving,
exquisitely observed memoir.
Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015,
while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift
to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own
mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote.
“Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go
on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable,
life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the
relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who