Neurosurgeon and author Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 35, and given a very short amount of time left to live. He published several memoirs in the New York Times, and ultimately collected them into a book called When Breath Becomes Air, which was published by Random House shortly after his death at 37. He left behind his wife, Lucy, and their daughter, Elizabeth.
Strangely enough, this is a largely similar experience to that of Nina Riggs, an American author and poet. You see, Riggs had published her own memoir of her battle with breast cancer, called The Bright Hour, which was also published shortly after her death at the age of 39. She left behind her husband, John, and their two sons, Freddy and Benny.
So why is the similarity between these two so important? Well, it's because their former spouses not only went through quite a bit of grief, but ultimately found new hope and new love... by seeing each other.
You see, according to an interview in The Washington Post, Nina and Lucy had contacted each other after the publication of When Breath Becomes Air, and when Nina took a turn for the worse, she suggested that John contact Lucy for some advice on how to move forward with his life after the loss of his spouse.
John read Lucy's last email to Nina while at Nina's deathbed, and responded by writing, “Thank you for being such a strong supporter and friend to her. She’s talked about you a ton these past few weeks, and her sense of you being a person with great insight and empathy. She’s clearly on the mark there.”
When he couldn't cope with his loss, he got in contact with Lucy. Ultimately it turned out that his wife had done one more thing for John before she passed: she played matchmaker.
The two corresponded regularly by email, and ultimately decided to meet up in person after a long time of exchanges. “We held each other a long time,” said Lucy. There were two dinner dates and, by both accounts, “a lot of chemistry.”
The two have since moved in together, and have not only helped each other deal with their grief, but also to find new strength and hope as they enter this new stage of their lives.
What do you think of this unlikely pairing?