Written by cycleguy on June 22nd, 2016

We don’t much like to talk about dying. I know whenever I used to bring up the subject a certain person to whom I have been married to for 43 years didn’t want to talk or think about it. Unfortunately, sometimes reality bites.

I have lived 63 years now and been in the ministry over 40 of them and can honestly say I have seen my share of death and dying. Countless funerals (I wish I had kept a record). A mother. A grandfather & grandmother. A mother and father-in-law. A sister-in-law. Friends. Colleagues. Followers of Christ. Non-followers of Him. I have done “whole” families (mother, father, uncle and aunt, brother and sister).

I’d like to think I know about dying. But then again…I haven’t died so I can really say that. I’ve seen what cancer can do; what lingering illnesses can do; what sudden heart attacks can do; etc. But I can’t say I really know about dying.

Several months ago I read a blog which mentioned a book, When Breath Become Air, by Paul Kalanithi. It sounded interesting so I bought it. I finished reading it today (Wednesday). At the age of 36, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul was diagnosed with terminal cancer. This book is his story. It is not all about cancer. He tells about his life, his questions, his focus on neurosurgery all to give us his perspective on his cancer. I’d like to write that Paul beat his cancer…but I can’t. In March of 2015 he took his last breath. This book is his story (with a last chapter help from his wife, Lucy). It was published posthumously-a dying wish he wanted to hear as a promise.

It was not a “religious” book where he spouted off Bible verse after Bible verse. It wasn’t a name-it-claim-it book where he spoke positive confession and was healed. It is honest (with a few graphic words by others). It is filled with stories of people he “ran into” in his practice. He did talk about being raised as a Christian, then sojourned to ironclad atheism, and then found his way back to the faith of his childhood. Actually, his discussion of faith and science on pages 167-173 is almost worth the price of the book alone. I found myself sneaking small amounts of time to read with a bigger chunk last night and then again this morning. His story “haunted” me. I had tears in my eyes when his wife told of his death and his fight to live.

My suggestion: get the book. Read it for yourself, then let me know your thoughts.

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10 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jeff says:

    I might also suggest, from one of my favorite writers,

    Christopher Hitchensโ€™ Mortality: A rare honest book about death.

  2. Interesting. Sounds a lot like David Brainerd.

  3. Zee Gimon says:

    Sounds really interesting. I’ll look into getting it. Science and faith, huh? That topic is really close to my heart (and mind).

    I know the feeling of trying to talk to someone about dying and the other person just changing the topic… To be honest, I like to think about it. Not in an “Ooh, look, what a nice death” way, but in a “We’re all going to die one day, so we better talk all the things out beforehand” way. Sam and I have discussed what we want to happen if/when one of us dies first. I think it is a healthy discussion and not just during a serious sickness (I mean, I might die today, for all I know – not that I desire that, but someone said it, “death is the reality of life.”)

    PS. Do you really wish you kept a record of funerals you conducted?

    • cycleguy says:

      I think you will like the book Zee. And yes, both weddings and funerals. Call me strange. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Zee Gimon says:

        Weddings are one thing, but funerals… (I know there’s FUN in the FUNeral, but still) ๐Ÿ˜€

        • cycleguy says:

          Clever with the FUN part. I groaned. ๐Ÿ™‚ It is really all part of record-keeping some do. I never did so I have no record of how many of either I have done over the years. That is what I wish I knew. (But I believe it is too late now). LOL

  4. floyd says:

    I’ll get it. Thanks.

  5. Thanks for the recommendation, Bill!