The memoirs were published to praise and, in both cases, posthumously. Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air was released in 2016 and chronicled the 37-year-old's experience with lung cancer; the next year came The Bright Hour from Nina Riggs, a woman whose life was cut short by breast cancer at age 39. That the books have often been referenced alongside each other is not surprising, Nora Krug reports for the Washington Post. But Krug has a follow-up that's altogether improbable and yet somehow seems fated: A look inside the love that the authors' respective widow and widower have found with each other—after a sort of prodding from Riggs.
In her last days, Riggs advised husband John Duberstein to contact Kalanithi's widow, Lucy—the two women had previously been in contact over Riggs' writing—suggesting she could help him navigate what was to come. Two days after his wife's death and reeling over questions about writing a eulogy and being able to sleep at night, he emailed Lucy. It was the start of an email-only relationship so voluminous that they joke, "we learned that when a gmail thread reaches 100, it rolls you into another thread." The two, who live on opposite coasts and have three children between them, met for the first time in April and have found themselves navigating grief and love at once. Says Lucy, "I'm surprised by how ridiculous it is and how natural it is at the same time." Read Krug's full story, which recounts a bittersweet New Year's Eve, here. (Read more love stories.)