When breath becomes air

By- Paul Kalanithi

A short review by Dr. Paramjeet Singh,

Consultant Psychiatrist, Delhi Mind Clinic.

Death and dying are eternal truths of the mortal world. The literary world has seen them from various emotional perspectives of loss, sadness, contentment, romanticism, angst, anxiety and many more. 

However, in the real world, dying is seen as unnatural, as a lurking dark shadow and bringing sordid emotions to the fore.
Here is an autobiography of a dying man, written from the deathbed. In the company of both life and death. 
That too a man who is an accomplished doctor, a Neurosurgeon who on one side has known death on the professional front as a stark reality and on the other facet is trained to fight death each day. He is a valiant fighter to illness and death contractually obligated by his career choice.

 _”Lying next to Lucy in the hospital bed, both of us crying, the CT scan images still glowing on the computer screen, that identity as a physician-my identity-no longer mattered. With cancer having invaded multiple organ systems, the diagnosis was clear. The room was quiet. Lucy told me she loved me. “I don’t want to die,” I said.”_ _ 

How does he respond to the idea of dying- Not just in anyone close. But himself losing his life. Facing the inevitable and knowing all too much about this.
Isn’t this sad? indeed this is. However, death also makes the author more closely and intuitively aware of the life that he has and he has had. 

Making him relish the life gone by and enjoying each day that is to be and simultaneously living through grief. The churning of opposing emotional forces leads to this beautiful baby in form of this book. Which celebrates life and accepts death and dying. 

Uniquely written and shared. The most intimate part of life- dying shared with people in an original form and format.

 Paul’s decision not to avert his eyes from death epitomizes a fortitude we don’t celebrate enough in our death-avoidant culture. His strength was defined by ambition and effort, but also by softness, the opposite of bitterness. He spent much of his life wrestling with the question of how to live a meaningful life, and his book explores that essential territory._ 

-Paul Kalanithi. Deceased but alive with his words and pen.

It is a testament that the last bite of ice cream is indeed the most delectable. Instead of lamenting over the cup finishing, can we relish the last bite as the best?

Each book is a living organism and forms a unique bond with the reader. Saying and conveying different things to each one of us. To me, it tells us to accept the unchangeable, work through the workable, and embrace the experience of living. To me it also emphasizes dignity in death and dying.

Stop and smell the roses…..

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