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When Breath Becomes Air

I just finished a touching, powerful book When Breath Becomes Air.  That title meant nothing to me till the end. I knew its meaning when Paul took his last breath.

Death. Why is it so feared? Is it because no one really knows what comes next? I think so. We can speculate. We can believe. But who knoweth for sure what happens after breath becomes air?

I can see why people cling to religion. It provides an answer about the afterlife. It may not be true, but it can be comforting. Who really wants to believe that this is it? It seems so final. So unfair to those who are taken early. But what is early? Is there any promised amount of days allotted to man? I think not. So why should any feel robbed?

Time is a gift? Those who are granted more time, are they the lucky ones? Is it the depth of life, or the breadth of life that which we should use as the measuring rod for a life well lived? And, by the way, who is to say what makes a life well-lived?

Paul's reflections took me on a rollercoaster ride. I remembered Tyler dying of a glioblastoma. I thought of Annette racked with cancer. I thought of my children's friend's father who plummeted to his death down an elevator shaft. We live with death daily. Reflecting on death feels morbid; sometimes downright terrifying and paralyzing, and yet we go on living. Paul is right, the best way to face death is to keep on living.

I held my children a little tighter the past few days. I will hold them tighter today too. I hope I will not soon forget this powerful book and its message. I hope I will remember that life is fragile and none of us have any time guarantee. The only life truth I know for certain is that we all will die. None escape death. I will die. So will my children. Does this knowledge change how I live? Or does it simply change how I will die? Thanks to Paul, it changes both.

I have always wanted to live a LONG, full life, and die a QUICK, painless death. Now, I'm ready to be fully present and experience them both exactly as they unfold. No judgment, just observation, and experience. Life is a ride I'm dearly loving. May death hold equal amounts of exhilaration and learning. May I, like Paul, bravely go where others have so nobly gone. May I, like Paul, leave a legacy of love for my family, friends, and future humanity. One day, my breath will also become air.

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