Ahh! I have read about six books in the last two weeks!! It has been completely wonderful and I am trying desperately to document my favorite parts of each. The first one I want to share...it's another memoir. But in my defense, it is one of the most thought-provoking memoirs I have read. While Gilbert's thoughts on marriage were the catalysts for reflections on my own relationships and marriage in Committed, Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air spoke to the side of me that is obsessed with that place where a person sees their reflection, and their humanity stares back in all it's flawed beauty, suffering, shortcomings and burdens.
Remarkably, he is also able to highlight the pieces of us that are good and hopeful...the shreds of selflessness, sacrifice, forgiveness, and unbridled, plentiful love...not reserved for only those closest to us, but for complete strangers. I found that I wanted to know him, and more than that, I wanted to emulate the parts of him that made him exceptional. I highlighted so many passages I can not even list them all here...and there are countless authors that I will read because of his mention of them. As a nurse, I felt a kinship to his heart as a physician, as a student of literature I drank in his vast knowledge of books, and as a human being, I wanted to thank him for being so completely honest and insightful and kind.
At one point he was reflecting on his awareness of what his career as a neurosurgeon entailed and how much he respected not only his calling, but the people he treated - and the extreme responsibility of it all:
Before operating on a patient's brain, I realized, I must first understand his mind: his identity, his values, what makes his life worth living, and what devastation makes it reasonable to let that life end. The cost of my dedication to succeed was high, and the ineluctable failures brought me nearly unbearable guilt. Those burdens are what make medicine holy and wholly impossible: in taking up another's cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight.
To say I recommend this book is an understatement, and if you are in the medical field, it is a must read.