What makes life meaningful? In his quest to find out the answer to this question, Paul Kalanithi the author of When Breathe Becomes Air, goes ahead to study English Literature and Human Biology.
He writes, “I was driven less by achievement than by trying to understand, in earnest: What makes human life meaningful? I still felt literature provided the best account of the life of the mind, while neuroscience laid down the most elegant rules of the brain.”
In this book, Paul gives us his personal journey from childhood. The steps he has taken to become a neurosurgeon and his family life. He is diagnosed with lung cancer just before he graduates. This leaves him wondering how much time he has to live and what he should do before he dies.
It is a difficult period for both Paul and his family.
Paul wrote When Breath Becomes Air when he was ailing. At some point he had to do it while wearing silver lined gloves due to the pain in his fingers caused by chemotherapy. The very person who had devoted himself to find out the meaning of life was now facing death. The life he had imagined was now falling apart right before his own eyes.
The person who used to solve patients problems was now a patient. On his deathbed, Paul Kalanithi asked his wife Lucy Kalanithi to print When Breath Becomes Air. His is a story of how one can face death gracefully.
In the epilogue, which was done by Lucy, she says, ‘what happened to Paul was tragic, but he was not a tragedy.’