The Memoir ‘Once More We Saw Stars’ by Jayson Greene

I listened to Jayson Greene on a podcast a while ago and noted to one day read his memoir, Once More We Saw Stars. With young children, it’s not the type of book I’d usually put on my reading list but there was something in the way he spoke about his experience that made me want to push past my discomfort and read it.

When the story begins, two-year-old Greta Greene is sitting with her grandmother on a park bench in Manhattan when a brick crumbled from a windowsill overhead, striking her. She’s rushed to hospital but dies shortly after, leading Greene and his wife Stacy into the unimaginable.

I found it unbearable at times but also felt a strange sense of commitment – if he could put such honesty and rawness out there, I had an obligation to read it. It’s a story about grief, loss, hope, healing, love, and the fragility of life.

As he tells The Guardian: “Trauma is a rip in your understanding of the universe… The idea that you can prepare for trauma is wrong. You can’t. Trauma is the unforeseen and the terrible. I think people are drawn to stories in which terrible things happen because in some ways they are one of the most proven mechanisms we have in making sense of the world and making sense of our emotions.”

Read a review of Once More We Saw Stars.

Buy it wherever you get good books.

Book: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air is a moving and sad yet inspiring memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question, ‘What makes a life worth living?

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.

It’s an emotional investment and although it is about dying, for the most part, the indelible impression it leaves is that it is more about living.

Read a review of When Breath Becomes Air.

Buy the book.

Speak, Memory: A Story About Artificial Intelligence and Grief

A thought-provoking story about how a programmer used artificial intelligence (AI) to keep talking to her friend after his death.

Speak, Memory asks whether AI can help to ease grief and ultimately, just because we can, does it mean we should?

Modern life all but ensures that we leave behind vast digital archives — text messages, photos, posts on social media — and we are only beginning to consider what role they should play in mourning. In the moment, we tend to view our text messages as ephemeral. But as Kuyda found after Mazurenko’s death, they can also be powerful tools for coping with loss. Maybe, she thought, this “digital estate” could form the building blocks for a new type of memorial.

It’s similar in concept to the Black Mirror episode Be Right Back’

Read the full article here.

This American Life Podcast – One Last Thing Before I Go (#597)

This American Life is one of my favourite podcasts and this week’s episode perfectly demonstrates why.

One Last Thing Before I Go has two stories (22 and 33 minutes long) in which ordinary people make last ditch efforts to get through to their loved ones.

Both stories are insightful, emotional and beautifully told.

Find out more or listen.

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