“At the end of the day, every decision we make is because we long for love, wish we had more time, and we fear death”
The words of Howard, (as played by WIll Smith) in the movie Collateral Beauty, reverberated in my ears as I took a deep breath after reading Paul Kalanithi’s memoir When Breath Becomes Air. The quote encompasses the book.
Paul Kalanithi as he says is or was or had been (or as he himself and we wished, will be) a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist at Stanford University School of Medicine. He was at the peak of his career, recipient of the highest award in his field and a reputed neurosurgeon, when at thirty six, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. That incident changed him and the way he looked at life. He inscribes this journey meticulously, the transition from that of a doctor to that of a patient, in his book.
He always loved literature and wanted to be a writer. He was a literature graduate before he began his medical training in neurology. He was sure that one day he would write a book; maybe once retired from his medical profession, he said to himself. But the news of his diagnosis with cancer makes him reconsider his decisions and makes him think about, what Emma, his oncologist, puts it – “what mattered the most in life”. ‘When Breath become air’ is the upshot of his contemplation.
We all have been and will be again in those crossroads, to pursue after what we love or after what get us paid well, to hold onto our ego or let lose the battle for love. All our lives is a journey in search of meaning of life, so was Paul Kalanithi’s.
Paul’s book is a log of his life first through the youthful years of his time at residency program and later through the onerous days of being a cancer patient. If you dig deep, all the love and the advices he cached for his daughter could be read – in between those lines.
‘Even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living’ – Paul Kalanithi
Also published on Medium.