Death comes to us all. When I picked up this book, I was looking for fiction. Something new, something that wasn’t on my radar, and so I did something different, I walked into a mainstream bookshop. I was due to have lunch with my brother but decided to go shopping before meeting him at our chosen steakhouse. However, as I got into town and walked in and out of the shops, something tugged at the strings of my heart and told me to go into a bookshop instead. After all, it was a few days after payday, and though I had spent my allowed money for books, I did not mind building up my library.

I walked into the bookshop and there this was, and I had no choice but to pick it up, go into a coffee shop and get lost within. It is amazing that I have thought about death over the past few years a lot more than I ever have in my life. I think as I have grown older, and dare I say a little wiser, I have become aware of the absolute certainty that is mortality. I do not want to be immortal, and I do not wish to be forever young, I just want to do the best with the time I am given. Yet, I did not realise that I would learn more about death as I did reading; ‘when breath becomes air’.

I do not want to be immortal.... I just want to do the best with the time I am given. Click To Tweet

Paul Kalanithi wrote ‘when breath becomes air’ while he was receiving treatment for cancer. He was a resident neurosurgeon, who had an amazing career waiting for him until investigation for back pain confirmed the worst. After a slow response to medication and toxicity from chemotherapy, he began his journey to death. I often forget that though cancer affects children and the old, it can also steal the glory of those ‘in between’. I forgot I was reading an incomplete memoir, the writings of a man who died before he could finish his work. He spoke of the gruelling life of a medical trainee, the emotional, physical and relational torment many doctors face. He wrote about his choice to become a neurosurgeon; a speciality for the emotionally stoic and dexterous doctor.

It was not until I read the epilogue written by his wife Lucy that I realised he had died. The impact of her words arrested me so suddenly and the floodgates of tears, could not be controlled. His death and the sorrow it brought, troubled me. Her bravery to have a baby while her husband was battling Cancer convicted me. Paul Kalanithi died at 37 leaving behind his memory, his wife and daughter Cady, but he also left us his book. A thorough self-examination as ‘the doctor’ became ‘the patient’. Kalanithi’s book had reminded me again of my mortality. It has reignited the desire I have to fulfil my dreams while I can. Death is the one fate that awaits us all; life is for living so live it fully.

Until next time, Dami loves reading.

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