(continued from part one)
James: That moment, when Kalanithi embraces the pain that life brings, absolutely gutted me. I can’t imagine–or couldn’t until he wrote this–how anyone could choose difficulty and trouble over ease and comfort in his darkest moments. Wanting to bring more love into your life knowing that you have that much more to lose? What an impressive choice to make, though hard on the ones left behind.
Also impressive is the way in which he dramatizes this situation. As always, I’m caught as much by an author’s ability to express a feeling as by the feeling itself. Potent as this life-and-death stuff is, WBBA wouldn’t touch me if it couldn’t find a way to make the words sing. Kalanithi provides the perfect metaphor for what I’m talking about when he shares an anecdote from his student years:
Lucy, whom I met in the first year of medical school (and who would later become my wife), understood the subtext of academics. Her capacity to love was barely finite, and a lesson to me. One night on the sofa in my apartment, while studying the reams of wavy lines that make up EKGs, she puzzled over, then correctly identified, a fatal arrhythmia. All at once, it dawned on her and she began to cry: wherever this “practice EKG” had come from, the patient had not survived. The squiggly lines on that page were more than just lines … they could bring you to tears.
Any book-lover knows the truth of this. When lines are strung together correctly they can bring tears and joy and nameless emotions that have never been felt before ... continued