I have just finished reading When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi with an Epilogue by his widow, Lucy Kalanithi. Paul was a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist before his death from a very rare form of lung cancer (and no he was not a smoker) at the age of 37. In his last year of life, he became a writer. The above book was published posthumously and I recommend it as a powerful book of integrity. Paul looked into the eyes of death with fortitude and grace. He wrote as a doctor and a patient.
His writing triggered my thinking yet again about the meaningfulness of my life now that I am two years post working for ‘a living’. I had been having another one of those days where I was wondering – yet again – what is my current life purpose? What am I doing that is of value? I find I get into this kind of existential space when I seem to have unspoken for time on my hands. I don’t like to ‘waste’ time. I want – I need – to believe that I am using time in a meaningful way. Just living for pleasure, or yet another experience is not enough for me. I have people in my life who love me. I am so grateful for this and yet I still need more. I need to have purpose and be giving beyond those who love me.
After finishing When Breath becomes Air I wrote myself some questions:
Am I living my life with integrity and in doing so, facing my inevitable death with grace?
Why do I wonder about such things so often? I am well and strong. My parents are elderly and perhaps this is a reason for my wondering about life and death and the balance that exists between them. Thinking (reluctantly) about their deaths necessarily has me consider my own leaving of this current life.
Or it is that I now have time to reflect – to think; one of the changes I hoped for post my pilgrimage across Spain?
While I still have agency in my life – which I continue to believe and accept as a gift to be shared – I dare to hope that my days will be full of meaning and purpose beyond the contribution of grand-parenting activities, important as these are.
Prayerful-ness, reading, reflection and writing sustain the hope for purpose and meaning and have me believe my life has meaning beyond myself.
Perhaps some of these wonderings lie within my hope to be daily living the principles of pilgrimage in my everyday life.