Carmel Magazine

CM SP16 Online Edition

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 92 of 211

e v e r y o n e ." D r. Abraham Verghese says in the fore- word: "…he was w r i t i n g a b o u t time and what it m e a n t t o h i m now, in the con- text of his illness. Which made it all so incredibly poignant." K a l a n i t h i ' s memoir forces reader s to ponder difficult questions. What would you do if you found you had two years to live? Or one year? What if dur- ing that year you beat the odds and were given ten years? What would take priority in each of those scenarios? In a discussion with his doctor, Kalanithi says: "If I had some sense of how much time I have left, it'd be easier. If I had two years, I'd write. If I had ten, I'd get back to surgery and science." His doctor tells him she cannot give him a number, nor advise him how to proceed. She says, "Many people, once diagnosed, quit work entire- ly. Others focus on it heavily. Either way is okay." Kalanithi makes a decision: "I would push myself to return to the OR. Why? Because I could. Because that's who I was. Because …even if I'm dying, until I actually die, I am still living." He says, "A couple of my professors actively discouraged the idea: 'Shouldn't you be spend- ing time with your family?' ('Shouldn't you?' I wondered.)" Shouldn't we all? You cannot read this memoir without coming to love the author, to miss him, to feel the pal- pable, tremendous loss that his remarkable life was cut short. After Paul and his wife have a child, Kalanithi wants to leave this daughter some kind of mes- sage. "There is perhaps only one thing to say to this infant, who is all future, overlapping briefly with me, whose life, barring the impossible, is all but past. 'When you come to one of the many moments in life where 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.'" I highly recommend this book. It should be mandatory reading. We'd be better humans if we lived our lives as though this week or month or year would be our last. Before you begin, consider Verghese's advice: "Be ready. Be seated. See what courage sounds like." Postcards from Here: a memoir in vignettes Essays by Penny Guisinger W ith these 57 "postcards," ranging in length from a sentence to a page, Penny Guisinger examines a wide swath of topics: a tom turkey; a community orchestra; a struggling farm; an observation of rain turned to snow; depres- sion, addiction, babies and beets. These vignettes may be lean, but they're not lightweight. "Love by the Numbers" "Eight thousand volunteers collected over one hundred seven thousand signa- tures in support of our marriage. The campaign changed twelve thousand voters' minds with t w o h u n d r e d twenty five thou- sand conver sa- t i o n s . We w o n with a six-point lead, and Maine became the eighth state to decide that men could marr y men and women women. Four Portland bak- eries donated over sixty wedding cakes to feed the seven hundred people who attended the victory banquet. All that data comes down to the heartbreaking way you pick up the pitcher and refill my water glass because you know I am thirsty. Your delicate wrist exposes itself to me as you place the pitcher next to the fifty-seventh wedding cake." Collectively, these vignettes paint a place, an era, and histories—individual, familial and cultural. C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 6 91 Books available at Pilgrim's Way and River House Books. Melanie Bishop's young adult novel was published in 2014. Bishop teaches creative writ- ing and was founding editor of Alligator Juniper, a national lit- erary magazine. For more info, go to

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Carmel Magazine - CM SP16 Online Edition