isabelle thye

When breath becomes air – what is a life well lived?

As I got to the end of the book, I started to weep softly.

Words conjunct with memories, I had a grand tour of death.

I felt like spending the whole book getting to know Paul, only to lose him in the epilogue penned by his wife, about the grand finale of life.

Memories zoomed in and out, I thought of my late uncle.

Had I gotten to know cancer this way, this close, I might be able to see death eye to eye, embrace it, and march right through it; I would’ve been more present in those last days.

How much suffering would you let someone you love to endure before saying that death is preferable?
What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?

It pierced through the core of my heart.

What was the best way to keep him alive? Should we accept that death is around the corner? Should we keep trying? Should we put him in pain in exchange for extra time?

It was a very real struggle that my family went through.

How do we ever learn to get ready to die, or to accept death?

It hurts, because there’s love. It hurts, because I think I could be more. It hurts, because I wish for a different closure that I’ll never get.

Paul wrote a stunning book because of his radical honesty. It’s a truthful account of a dying man questioning his own existence and trying to make sense of it all.

I found emotional escape knowing that even a neurosurgeon hadn’t got it figured out. I savoured the finesse of his words and emotions in finding meaning at the juncture of life and death.

I got to know death like a friend – just as it is, like life.

It is dark but we need not be scared; it is sad but we can fill it with love. It is part of us.

Paul said not knowing how long he had distorted his ability to decide the most sensible move in life.

He would go very different directions knowing that he had 3 months, 3 years or 10 years left.

What is the fullest of life that we are all striving for?

It brought me to the deepest part of myself, reflecting upon my own existence, and the choices I’ve made.

Am I treating life with love and honour? Letting it be free without resistance? Am I finding joy in things I do?

Paul’s documentation of a finite life reminds me of the power of words, the power of life, the power to follow my heart, to open my heart, to receive what universe has to give.

‘You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.’

Who can I be? Who will I be?

That’s the quest in each breath – to define a life well lived, to explore, to struggle, to breakthrough, to gain, to lose, and to start over again.

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