Saturday, February 16, 2019

Love story for the ages

Lucy and John
It is one of my favorite things: to find an unforgettable memoir that just grabs me and gives me a lot to think about. And yesterday, I finished one that I can recommend without reservation: The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs. I not only enjoy all memoirs, but especially those that are written in extremis. Nina was a gifted writer and had the easiest way of talking about everything, with humor, as well as dying of breast cancer at 39. So, of course, I went online to find out more about Nina. I learned about her husband and children, and how much love was present in them all and for each other.

A couple of years ago, I read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, which is along the same lines: Paul was only 37 when he died of lung cancer, never smoked, and was a renowned neurosurgical resident at Stanford. I have read his book twice now and will, I'm sure, read it again. He and his wife decided to visit a sperm bank in order to help his wife get pregnant before he died. He was very ill when his daughter, Cady, was born, but he lived long enough to be there. It's a tremendously inspiring book, too. I also recommend it highly.

But the love story: Nina was so worried about how John would be able to deal with her death that she asked him to get ahold of Lucy Kalanithi, who had been through the same experience that he was facing, and could possibly help him. Nina and Lucy were already friends because of an essay Nina had published in The Washington Post. Lucy had written her a fan letter and wrote a glowing blurb for the unpublished book, and sent Nina a private email two days before Nina died in a hospice. John read the email to her, and Nina begged him to get ahold of her afterward.

John did, and over the period of several months of intense emails, they decided to meet. Lucy was scheduled to come to a conference less than an hour away from John's home. That was the beginning of this part of the love story. The Washington Post wrote a wonderful article about it, which you can read in its entirety here. (Note: I subscribe to the Post, so I don't have a limit on what I can see. Please let me know if you have a problem reading it, and I'll try to find another way.)

For me, it was a Valentine's Day reward, a wonderful book and a real-life love story all at once. (P.S. I found, after some more digging, that the couple broke it off last summer, so the love story might not be still happening. Too soon?)


  1. No access to the story for me.
    Like you, I love memoirs, and am often amazed that truth IS stranger than fiction.

  2. I do like to read memoirs, both funny ones, and those of how people cope with grief. The two you describe sound tough to read but worth while.

  3. They do sound rather heartbreaking.

  4. Common theme dealing with loss . You've been through this one. My parents lost their only daughter at age eleven. It influenced and challenged the rest of their lives.

  5. I read the story in the Journal, thanks for the link. Who knows what will happen to them, perhaps they had not grieved fully. Recently I photographed the wedding of my cousin, his wife died a number of years ago, he met a widow...and they are so happy together! :)

  6. Two more books for my list! Thanks, DJan!

  7. Wow, you couldn't script that story. I hope they give each other the help they need. I'll check on that book. Thanks.

  8. I could read the article. In a way they met on a strange kind of intensely emotional rebound plus were thrown into it being a semi-public relationship. So they had a lot going against them, actually. Maybe if they had met at a later date...or get together again a few years from now...who knows? No matter what, they needed each other and were good for each other during that time of fresher grief. I hope they both find happiness. :)

  9. Interesting memoir and too bad that the surviving spouses broke off their relationship.

  10. I am not sure I could read it. I just KNOW Odd bawl much too long & hard.

    1. Odd? Dang auto correct (that's my excuse anyway). Should be I'D BAWL. But, you probably figured that out. I thought, secretly, you wanted to know.😁

  11. This is all so heartbreaking... and the happier ending didn't quite work out. Sigh...


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