Two authors were dying when they each wrote their own bestselling memoirs about their last days in this world. After the books were published posthumously, their spouses met each other — and fell deeply in love.
Who knew what began as a heartbreaking and tragic situation would blossom into something so beautiful? After all, the late Paul Kalanithi was only 37 as he faced lung cancer and wrote When Breath Becomes Air ($17.50, Amazon), which was published in 2016 after his death. And Nina Riggs was only 39 as she battled breast cancer and penned The Bright Hour ($15, Amazon), which hit shelves in 2017 after she passed.
On Nina Riggs’ deathbed, she was worried about how her beloved husband, John Duberstein, would go on without her. Knowing about Paul Kalanithi’s book, she made a suggestion to her husband: Contact Lucy Kalanithi, the late author’s wife he left behind.
Since Lucy and Nina had already been in contact, at first John was responding to Lucy’s emails on the ailing Nina’ behalf. But after Nina died, John sent a lengthy email to her, asking for advice in the midst of his grief.
“I felt a desire to support their family,” Lucy said. “And Nina was John’s character reference.”
In the weeks and months following, their emails became more and more frequent. Not only did Lucy help John, John also made Lucy realize how far she had come since her own husband’s death. Before long, the pair also realized how much their own feelings for one another were growing.
“We talked a lot about the minefield of managing to fall in love and actively grieve at the same time,” Lucy said.
When they finally met in real life, though, that’s when the real magic happened.
“We held each other a long time,” she said.
Last year, their relationship blossomed as the months went on. They met each other’s families and spent time in each other’s homes. They did this knowing fully well that both of their late spouses gave them permission to enter new relationships or even to remarry. That said, it hasn’t always been easy for either of them.
“I planned to spend my entire life with Nina. I was 100 percent happy doing that,” John said.
Lucy added that entering a new relationship meant acknowledging and accepting that and accepting that one could lose her partner. “If you are lucky enough, you will be devastated when they die,” she said. “Willingly entering that feels gutsy, but what else could you choose?”
It just goes to show that some of the most beautiful stories can emerge from even the saddest of times. We wish this couple (and all couples in this situation) all the happiness in the world.
h/t Washington Post