I’m reading When Breath Becomes Air, a memoir of a neurosurgeon (Paul Kalanithi) who passed away in his late 30s from lung cancer. I’m drawn to memoirs of suffering (but I guess no one writes a memoir of a purely joyful life, maybe they do and I just don’t read those) and this one is suppose to be beautiful – how can you resist a memoir that ends with this paragraph (addressing his 8 month old daughter):
When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.
There are 10,000 reviews of this book from every book critic and they all loved it, not a single slight written about this polymath’s final words, but I was heartbroken to read that he tied having a meaningful life so much with language. I mean, I get it, if you don’t have language, you are missing out on a lot – but there’s gotta be something else to hold onto and I hold onto it all the time. There is even a scene visiting kids in an institution with traumatic brain injuries who may have or may not have smiled at him and who wailed non-stop. These kids with broken brains did not have the ability to “form relationships and make life meaningful”. Just slay me now. When I ask Jeremy – if you had to choose for Edda, would you choose her to have a voice or to be able to use her hands Jeremy always chooses voice, I always choose hands. I argue you can still have language with your hands. Heck, Vince talks to me a lot over text.
The grass is high. I need to cut it before I get cited again.