Ever so often, and what I am always striving for, I find things that change me. That because of the experience, whatever it may be, I am a different person than before. Travel does this to me. As I listened to over 20 hours of The Agony and the Ecstasy because of my experiences in Florence, Bologna, Sienna, and Rome I could see, hear, smell, and feel Michelangelo's story in a different way. (Super bummer part of the story, the book is 33 hours long! And I couldn't renew the book from my library so after 20 hours of listening it expired and I have to wait to finish it after 2 other people listen to it!) But travel changes me. After experiencing a place I am changed.
Last night I finished a book that has changed me more than any book I've read in years. When Breath Becomes Air. The book is about the life of a resident physician and his battle with terminal cancer and death. But really his book is an introspective look at living. About values and meaning. And what is the point of our existence.
Spoiler alert: He dies. And it is heart wrenching. But it is absolutely beautiful. Every word he writes is beautiful. He has an 8 month old daughter when he dies. He writes this message to her for when she grows:
“When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”
Listening to these beautiful words, I was driving home from work uncontrollably sobbing. I couldn't wait to get to Brad. I couldn't wait to hold my baby in my arms and just love him. As I was driving I just imagined his face light up when he sees I'm there. I imagined just holding him and caressing his hair as he rests his head on my chest and holds tight to my shirt like he's done so many times. Alas just like every other disappointment in life, expectations and realities never quite match up. Brad wasn't excited to see me. When I tried to pick him up he kicked and screamed and held on to the chair because he was having so much fun playing that he didn't want to leave. Life, right?
There is so much I want to say about this book. So many ways it has changed me. Things I've always known. Things I've always valued. But things I feel more passionately.
The value of good literature.
The importance of family.
Constantly striving should be our goal.
The urgency to seize the day!
In the end relationships are all that matter.
Alas, I am trying to describe the beauty of this book and as so often I don't feel I can do it much justice. Just know, the book is so good that as soon as I finished it, I started listening to it again. Yes, that good.