When Breath Becomes Air
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Category : BOOK REVIEWS
Author : Sufiya Tazeen
“I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

Pondering and reflecting on this book, a deep sense of void grips your heart. You feel how fragile and brittle life is. Life knows exactly where to knock us down and when to lift us up. Life slaps us right in the face when we have climbed to the zenith of our prosperous moments. Nothing can be said about how quick is the passing of time and how the strike of calamity can fall anywhere, anyhow and anytime. Paul Kalanithi beautifully lives up to every details of his excruciating pain, yet he never tries to escape it, because he rightfully remarks, “Life is never about avoiding suffering.”

All our life, we live to fulfill the standards of every wall the society constructs. We yearn to earn every penny that we think will be an ultimate mark of our status quo. Knowledge is gathered in abundance because we think we will be given every honorary award and every respectful eye will be for us. We do everything in our power to stand up and live our life to the maximum. We fight, we fret, we fall, and still hold the capacity to stand in the face of every materialistic artefact and strive relentlessly to get it. Blinded in the name of commercialization and glamour we hardly notice how fast we are moving to a destination from where there is no coming back.

Paul’s life and death is a very genuine and sincere example of how we as mortals need to accept the joys and sorrows of life and death. He works hard to become the epitome of a neurosurgeon who envisions to change the lives of his patients into a more fruitful and productive life. He is extremely empathetic to the pain of his patients and stands by them and shows them his genuine care and support. That is what I will call a doctor with a supreme understanding of his profession more so a human being. He teaches that life is not just about climbing every success ladder at the behest of our relationships and family. He writes that he never for once let open the doors of separation in his marital life, even though he admits that he was having a difficult time. His exemplary courage and unending love for his wife teaches every individual that no matter what phase life brings us into, we always should hold tight the rope of love more strongly than the rope of disputes and clashes. We cling on to hope and that makes us want to contribute more and double of everything in life. Paul in a very subtle yet in an explicit way taught that death is an inevitable phase, each one has to die sometime, someday, but we need to make our life so worthwhile that even in parting it is more a gesture of gratitude for the life passed and not leave this mortal world in a bed full of regrets and remorse.

In life and in death, Paul Kalanithi never surrendered and mourned over his cancer diagnosis. He left this place being a perfect embodiment of the one who held on to patience and gratitude till the last breath of his life. His unceasing faith in God, and his never ending love towards his Creator made him leave this mortal abode with smile on his lips and contentment in his heart.

1 Comment

  1. Dr. Z. Ayesha

    I have read this book.

    It created a similar feeling in my heart- the endless quests we have in our life, only for it to culminate into our deaths.

    Reply

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