“When Breath Becomes Air”: Sadly Beautiful

When Breath Becomes Air  copy

When Breath Becomes Air is a beautiful treatise that calls for an appreciation of life as it crosses over into death. Paul Kalanithi as memory is as beautiful as the language in this book.This story reads like a spiritual epistle of a human being’s triumph over death. This young physician’s life was snatched by illness. His dreams shaken by the unwelcome call of death; yet, the language employed to share his story is humane–even towards the human being’s worst enemy–death.  The message in this memoir is clear: Although one’s organs may fail and a rest or for some death ensues, life continues in the memory of the universe and of those left living.

Paul Kalanithi gave his family (personal and universal) a gift; When Breath Becomes Air is a gift; The breath of this book is embraced by the air that one must inhale after a love-one, a friend has made transition. I do not use the word transition lightly; Paul’s story is one of transition–not death. It is also a story of authentic acceptance and knowing when life has come to a close on earth. When Breath Becomes Air is poetry. From this book, I find the poetic gifting of seeing and feeling as a life journeys to its human end. I see Kalanithi  and his wife, Lucy, meeting with their physician, Emma; I feel their fear.

In my imagination, this book must be required reading for healthcare practitioners. It is a pedagogical example of the doctor-patient story. And in this case the doctor and patient are one. I suspect a brilliant a movie entitled When Breath Becomes Air is calling itself into being. There shall be a red carpet, and a physician in training shall read the book, see the movie and know that there was a physician who loved the field of medicine so much that as he navigated cancers painful reward, he gave life in the form of his story to the world. When Breath Becomes Air is an unselfish act. We have Paul Kalanithi to thank!

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