When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese

Part autobiography, part exposition of personal philosophy on life and mortality, When Breath Becomes Air is the dying legacy of Paul Kalanithi, who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer near the end of his neurosurgical residency.   While Paul deservedly is given the main billing, credit also needs to be given to his widow, Dr. Lucy Kalanithi and a team of editors who refined a partially finished manuscript and brought it to publication.


I’d read enough about When Breath Becomes Air to know to bring a big box of tissues, and I used plenty in the evening I spent devouring the slim volume (and again when finally trying to put my thoughts down). In many ways When Breath Becomes Air is just another cancer memoir, but like the best of them there are moments of insight from the liminal space that just sing.  The most simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming part for me was when Paul talked about the decision that he and Lucy made to have a child, and his thanksgiving for the joy that daughter Cady brought to his dying months and days. 


You can see a trailer for When Breath Becomes Air, including video by Dr. Paul Kalanithi himself at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aetY_zS7Q6M