Nina Riggs was just thirty-seven years old when initially diagnosed with breast cancer—one small spot. Within a year, the mother of two sons, ages seven and nine, and married sixteen years to her best friend, received the devastating news that her cancer was terminal.
How does one live each day, “unattached to outcome”? How does one approach the moments, big and small, with both love and honesty?
Exploring motherhood, marriage, friendship, and memory, even as she wrestles with the legacy of her great-great-great grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nina Riggs’s breathtaking memoir continues the urgent conversation that Paul Kalanithi began in his gorgeous When Breath Becomes Air. She asks, what makes a meaningful life when one has limited time?
"There are so many things that are worse than death: old grudges, a lack of self-awareness, severe constipation, no sense of humor, the grimace on your husband's face as he empties your surgical drain into the measuring cup."
I enjoyed Riggs' musings on life through her love of the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne. She quotes heavily from his life and essays. And since she was a descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, she quotes a lot from him too having studying him early on.
The way she tackled life and love and death is inspiring. I can only hope to face death and live life in such a way.
"It's about honoring the unknowing and the awkwardness and the mystery of dying. he said. It's unsettling-- and that's okay."
This is the last paragraph in her book. To me it was profound. You can tell she was ready. It was alarming and tragic and poignant to read.
"Already, the boys are off to the wilds again-- whooping and surviving. It will be getting dark soon--the sky has started with that eerie postapocalyptic light of a warm evening in winter-- but I am not ready to call them back in. There is nothing in this whole world that could make me call them back in."
*Part of my 2018 Nonfiction Reading Challenge.